#853. Is your camera the same as your car?

By Adrian | Opinion

May 04

After a hiatus of more than 10 years, last year I became a car owner again.  Living in a city I didn’t need a car, but circumstances had changed and a car gives more flexibility and ease when making long journeys at short notice. I’ve always had an interest in cars, but the process of looking at information about different models and looking into the options started to make me feel that our camera choices seem to have become similar to our car choices.


Before you dismiss this as a preposterous concept, allow me to explain.

A moment of contemplation. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f4

Firstly, in the car market there is segmentation.  There can never be enough ways to differentiate models, and there seems to be no limit to the number of segments that can be created.  If you want a small car then perhaps you want a “sub-compact”.  However, if you look at a Citroen C3, a small hatchback, but think it’s too big, then perhaps you want a Citroen C2, a “super-mini”.  However, maybe you look at a C2 and think “I like it, but it’s just too big“, in which case you want something smaller, so perhaps you should look at a “city car”? 


So what exactly is the difference? 


About 8″, apparently. After that, it’s hard to tell.  They all have a wheel at each corner and 4 seats, but each one is ever so slightly different to the others. 

A doorway to another world. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f4

Your camera isn’t like this, surely? 


Camera makers love segments too, because they think they can make different models aimed at different buyers, all of which do more or less the same thing with minor variations in body style, size and specification.  Every DSLR makers camera range has an entry level model for beginners, then another model with basically the same sensor and inner workings in a different body shell that’s aimed at slightly more serious “enthusiasts”.  Above that is a slightly aspirational model for the serious amateur which often has exactly the same sensor again, but in a bigger fancier body with more knobs and buttons.  Generally, they all do more or less the same things.


Take Canon. EOS 2000D with 24Mp: “our newest”. EOS 250D with 24Mp: “our lightest”. EOS 800D with 24Mp: “our most advanced”. City car, super mini, sub-compact. Try hard enough, you might be able to work out the difference.


As you get into the upper end of the product ranges, the differentiation can be a little easier to understand. You can have a “tourer” – marketing speak for an estate car – that tries to do everything, a sports coupe that promises to get you to to your destination as quickly as possible, or something made for absolutely luxury and the best possible ride. 


Canon EOS 5D: general purpose. Canon EOS 1DX: sports camera. Canon EOS 5DS R: maximum resolution.

Chef at the table. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 24mm f1.8

As you go up the model ranges, cars get more luxurious and offer endless features and configuration: 3 different gear change configurations, 5 suspension settings, headlights that can light your way home and be configured to the exact number of seconds you require. Should I set it to 25 seconds or 26 seconds? It’s so difficult to decide.


Cameras are becoming the same, although it’s not only the preserve of the top end models, as almost every camera now has DR expansion settings, custom control wheel settings, or a choice of AF tracking sensitivity. Should I set to 3 for a stage event? What if they walk quickly, maybe I need level 4? How can I choose?

Condiments to choose. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 24mm f1.8

If you are already confused, it’s already getting worse.  Not content with city cars, super-minis and sub-compacts, the manufacturers decided that what customers wanted were “cross-over” vehicles – cars that pretended to be off road vehicles, but without most of the ability to actually, you know, go off road.  People don’t need that for the school run, they just want to look cool.  So perhaps you want a small cross-over vehicle rather than a car, perhaps something like a Renault Captur?  It’s essentially a Renault Clio dressed up in a sumo suit, but inside it has exactly the same amount of space for it’s passengers, but being taller it isn’t so nice to drive, and it costs more.

Superbike at a crossroads. Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

Cross-over cars?  Mirrorless cameras.  They mostly have exactly the same sensors as their DSLR stablemates, and often the same electronics and software, but they are packaged in smaller, more fancy looking bodies and have the party trick of interchangeable lenses but no mirror.  For quite some time they were also mostly not quite as good as the DSLRs on which they were based, and notably more expensive.  Much like the car market, where growing demand for cross-overs led to vanishing sales of more traditional models, so too did DSLR sales fall as fancy expensive mirrorless models proved fashionable and more popular.  So long DSLR, hello Samsung Galaxy NX. 


Canon EOS 2000D vs Canon EOS M100. How can you decide?

Twilight years. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f4

Apart from the manufacturers themselves, there is another group of people who love market segments – reviewers.  If you want a new city car or urban crossover, the media is awash with articles and comparisons detailing the merits of each model and telling you which is the best.  There are a couple of things that are most prevalent in these comparisons: specification and quality. 

Brand names. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f4

Specification is very important to car reviewers as it allows them to make subjective and often skewed personal opinion be passed off as fact-based evaluation.  The VW Up! Has class leading interior space, apparently.  Firstly, note the phrase “class leading”, more reference to segmentation, even though it may not actually be very clear to you what segment it’s competitors are in.  That’s good because perhaps the reviewer decided to ignore the Toyota Yaris even though it’s got more space inside, merely because it’s 8″ longer, and on the arbitrary scale of “segment”, it’s different.  Of course, all this specification “fact” almost certainly came from the manufacturers press pack, so when the review tells you about the wonderful economy and emissions data for your new VW Up!, you might just want to take it with a pinch of salt.  Even the “class leading” interior space was measured by how many polystyrene chips it took to fill it, so all those handy door pockets, the space under the floor of the boot, and how many they could cram into the heating vents will make the number look great, even if your feet won’t actually fit in the cup holders.


Lightest professional camera; class leading AF; professionally tuned.

New models. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f4

Quality is of course entirely subjective, and the manufacturers know it.  If they spend a few extra euros and use some “soft touch” plastics on the dashboard, they know that reviews will talk at great length about “interior quality”, particularly if you told them all about it in the press pack.  It doesn’t actually matter if the car turns out to have lots of niggling issues when it’s delivered to you, or tends to break down when you use it – it has some nice plastics on the dash, and that appears to be the most important measure of “quality”.

Premium Brand. Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

Camera makers know all about this too.  It doesn’t actually matter how strong, well built or long lived a camera is, because “quality” is measured by the touch and feel of the body.  Soft touch is great, but to hit the motherload you need to make it out of “metal”.  Metal is absolute quality, because old cameras were metal.  Of course, old cameras were brass, because engineering plastics weren’t available, but fancy alloy is also metal even when it’s the type of alloy that is brittle on impact and tends to crack.  Manufacturers put a thin skin of alloy on a lens made of engineering grade plastics, and reviewers enthuse about the quality of the metal build and how it feels in the hand.  Quality trumps fact, because how it feels is more important than any evidence that engineering plastics are stronger and have better thermal characteristics than old fashioned metal.

Plastic fantastic. Sony A6500 + Sony 10-18mm f4

Finally, we come to the factor which probably has the most influence on many car buyers choices: brand.  Or rather, brand image.


Car manufacturers spend huge amounts of time and money trying to create the right brand image.  When Toyota identified that they wanted to enter the luxury car market in the 1980s, they also realised that they needed a new brand, and so created Lexus.  The original Lexus LS400 was released onto the domestic and American markets first, because Toyota also identified that in some markets customers are more brand conscious than others.  In fact, what they really identified was that in some markets there is more brand snobbery – Europeans have much more snobbery about prestige car brands than Americans, who were more receptive to a new car brand that was quieter, smoother and more refined than the long established European marques at half the price.  Toyota also realised the importance of after-sales support in brand image, and when it was identified that the car had an issue with its lighting system, they sent an engineer to every owners home to fix it, valeted the car, and fill the tank with gas.

Which way to go? Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

Car buyers self-image, particularly at the “premium” end of the market, is just as significant and results in customers who choose car brands whose marketing appeals to their ego and their perceived social status. Who wants an uncool Vauxhall Cascada cabriolet when they can have a much more expensive Audi A4 cabriolet to flatter their ego, even though it may be worse in almost every way?


Camera buyers really aren’t that different, particularly higher up the market.  Canon and Nikon both know this, and follow the same slow evolutionary approach to product development as the car makers, who often become stuck in a rut of brand-value sameness across generations of products made more to appeal to their customer base than to actually offer anything innovative.  The dominant camera makers both want to be a safe pair of hands that buyers trust as a result of marketing and careful product placement.  The other brands stake out their market segment with their own marketing and brand values, whether it is tradition, innovation, or performance. Loyal brand customers are often like evangelical zealots, with unshakeable belief in the superiority of their religious choice.

A view to the heavens. Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

Brand capital is king: look a Leica, a brand that almost always scores highly in those “top 10 most powerful brands” in spite of almost nobody actually owning one, mostly because of the mythos steeped on it. Even at the very top end of the market it’s more about image than substance. If you buy a Bentley, what you’re actually getting is a very fancy VW. Buy a Rolls Royce, you’re getting a BMW. The most prestigious camera brands are now owned by investors who see the “brand capital”. Buy a Leica, you might be getting a Panasonic.


At the other end of the spectrum we have what we might now call the hipsters, for whom cool is at the opposite end of the brand image spectrum. There are plenty of drivers who still love the original VW Beetle, even though it could be considered one of the worst cars ever made. There are plenty of photographers who like Lomo cameras, based on terrible 1970s Soviet cameras that should probably have been consigned to the bin of engineering history. Sometimes, you just can’t predict what people might like.

Parallel Lines. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss 16-70mm f4

Should any of this influence your choice of car or camera? 


Just because someone else says something is “the best” based on some arbitrary and unsubstantiated measure probably shouldn’t mean it’s “best” for you.  The manufacturer claims it does 65mpg, and that’s “class leading” and therefore the best car, even though real drivers get 48mpg, whereas rivals models claim 56mpg and drivers achieve it. 


So which is best for a real driver on a real road?

The only way is down. Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

I’m actually all for independent empirical testing.  If it’s important to you, knowing the dynamic range or noise characteristics of a camera sensor could allow you to choose the camera that’s right for you.  I wouldn’t trust a lens manufacturers computed MTF chart, especially when the line pairs per millimetre is well below the resolution of the sensor in your camera, but I would read a selection of independent lens bench tests to get a feel for how a lens might perform.  That won’t tell you it’s character, but it should inform you how well it resolves or how much distortion it has.


Test results can be taken too far of course. If a one car has a 0-60 time that is 0.2 seconds faster than another, it may not mean anything in real world driving. A certain breed of camera “enthusiasts” get very very worked up by DXO lens test results and their “perceptual megapixels”, even though there is no clear definition of what it means or how it’s measured. One of the lenses used to take photographs in this article apparently has a score of 8Mp, which is very bad, and so is regarded by many of them as useless rubbish. As far as I’m concerned, they can stick their perceptual megapixels where the sun don’t shine.

Sensor grid. Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

Before we conclude, let’s reflect on where all of this goes wrong. Sometimes, in spite of all the market research, segmentation and quality focus groups, they just get it wrong. Very wrong. For every Lexus, there’s an Infiniti lurking.


About a decade ago Renault launched 2 new cars, a luxury saloon called the Vel Satis, and a sort of sports people carrier called the Avantime. At the time they were both modern, striking, and mostly very capable. They were both also epic failures that were quickly withdrawn from sale. The Vel Satis was a kind of soft, comfortable luxury saloon with big seats like armchairs launched into a market where everyone wanted a German sports saloon with hard seats and a Teutonic interior, not cream ruched leather. The Avantime seemed to be a solution looking for buyers who had a problem – a 2 door sporty people carrier, a kind of Espace coupe hybrid. Hindsight being what it is, perhaps they were just ahead of their time: Lexus made a market for comfortable luxury hybrid cars such as the CT200h to which the Vel Satis bears a striking resemblance; BMW sell SUVs such as the X6, a kind of high riding sports SUV for people who want to look like they can go off road very quickly – or kerb crawl past topless bars. Where Lexus and BMW succeeded was brand – the former with a kind of thinking persons eco-concious luxury, the latter with the old classics of snob value and speed.

Fast progress. Sony A6500 + Sony E 10-18mm f4

Cameraland has an equal history of things that looked good on paper, or good ideas that simply failed to find their market. For every Sony A7 there is a Nikon 1.


Pentax released the K-01, a K mount camera with the mirror taken out, emblazoned with the signature of industrial designer Marc Newson. It tried to be cool, but neither appealed to traditionalists nor hipsters, and became an experiment never to be repeated. Sony’s QX series of camera modules that attached to smart phones which acted as their LCD probably seemed like the answer to pocket camera sales that had fallen off a cliff because of smart phones, but they were probably too difficult to understand, too fiddly to use, and didn’t really take better photos than consumers phones, which were improving at incredible speed. Hasselblad released badge engineered versions of the Sony RX100, NEX-7 and Alpha 99 with stratospheric price tags, clad in fancy materials and wooden grips, which were obviously supposed to appeal to the well heeled brand conscious consumer. Unfortunately, unlike Leica, Hasselblad don’t appear in those top 10 lists of cool brands, so rich brand snobs didn’t want them, and they soon ended up in the discount bins at Best Buy.


Wherever you look there are parallels, ones that worked, and ones that didn’t.

Organic growth. Sony A6500 + Sony Zeiss 16-70mm f4

Cars have become a commodity item, often more likely leased rather than owned outright. This suits many drivers, who see their car as a lifestyle choice and a fashion item, used until it goes out of style or they get tired of it, and then given back. In a market where it’s increasingly difficult to make sales or a profit, this changing business model may suit manufacturers. With camera makers trying to appeal to customers by pushing the same emotional buttons of brand image, quality, or performance, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the ownership model also changes?


Remember the Ricoh GXR with it’s interchangeable sensor and lens modules? What if you leased them? In a shrinking market with difficult sales and unpredictable profits, maybe it’s time for one of the more vulnerable manufacturers to do something really radical with their ownership model?

There’s a storm brewing. Sony A6500 + Sony 10-18mm f4

Photographs in this article were taken in Thailand and Singapore in 2018 with a Sony A6500, a really excellent little camera, which may be a cross-over. Or a sub-compact. I’m not really sure. The pictures were post processed using SilkyPix Developer Studio Pro v9.


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  • philberphoto says:

    Excellent! I enjoyed my read end to end, and the pictures are truly sweet. Congrats!

    • Adrian says:

      Thanks Philippe. The A6500 really is a great little camera, and the 24Mp APS-C sensor has notably better noise characteristics than the A6000 (also an excellent camera). I would say the newer sensor is broadly comparable to the older FF 24Mp unit in the A7ii, although it generates some strange green colour casts in shadows when severely underexposed.

  • Michael Demeyer says:

    One difference, I think, is that cars are more readily recognized by the general public as personal style expressions (or status symbols), while cameras, with the possible exception of Leica (I’m always amazed how many non-photographers recognize and comment on mine), really only speak to other photographers.

    But your comments on segmentation are spot on…

    • Adrian says:

      You are absolutely right Michael, to most of the public, camera brands and model ranges are invisible, with the strange exception of Leica. Consumers are far most brand conscious about phones and phone models (also largely sold on status and reflected coolness).

      I do think within the photographic community there is brand consciousness, often wrapped in the religious zeal I mentioned. Fuji and Leica owners are street photographer congnescenti, Fuji and Nikon owners are “proper” photographers, Pentax owners are lost probably worried more than anything else, and Canon owners – well, they are sure in their choice because Canon anlre #1, right? Camera brands, marketing, segmentation and self image all play as much in our choice of equipment as it does in the general public and their choice of a car, in my opinion – it’s just we often don’t recognise or accept it!

  • pascaljappy says:

    Great post Adrian. The parallel between cars and cameras seems very valid to me because the two are dream machines. Both give us a sense of being someone we aren’t always. In my mind, I’m Galen Rowell on his adventures, for instance. In real life, I mostly photograph my garden … 😉

    And both have been commoditized in different ways but with similar results. In France at least, the successive governments have gone to extraordinary lengths to wipe our all sense of pleasure from driving. Roads are in terrible state (driving on them sometimes feels like offroading …) speed cameras are everywhere, as are uneducated thugs that – somehow – escape all policing. Cameras have similarly been (partly) ripped of the sort of awe inducing vibe you could experience with an Olympus OM back in the days. Functionality and specialisation have morphed into segmentation (usually essentially on technical criteria) so that cameras now meet what the company board feels is a segment but experienced users don’t recognise themselves in them. And, inexperienced users, well, they just buy phones, and rightly so.

    So how do we decide how to buy either? Biases. Projected image, false sense of superiority … We all have ours. I fell into the SUV trap because, in a world of poor roads and road thugs, it makes me feel safe(r). And the camera, also Swedish, go figure, well that makes me feel like I’m going to keep it for a long long time rather than be forced to follow the constant technological “upgrades” that cost a fortune in the long term and bring very little added pleasure. Biases. Nothing else 😉

    • Adrian says:

      Pascal, the situation is the same in the UK – the roads are in a terrible state of repair, full of dangerous potholes, yet local goverent in London has money to send putting in traffic calming measures, and lowering the local.speed limit where I live to 20moh, even on major roads. Speed cameras are everywhere, and in London the Major and central government do all they can to price drivers off the roads (there is now an emissions charge together with a congestion charge to drive in central London, and the Major has banned most types of cars from some roads completely). Drivers in London are often bad tempered and impatient, and expensive brands of large car flatter the egos of certain types of driver.

      As for cameras, you are of course right. There are exciting cameras out there, although in my opinion not from the big 2, who seem stuck in a rut of conservative self image. However, buyers are often also conservative in their tastes, wedded to old ideas of what proper photography is (or should be), a taste for traditional forms, and a belief in the brand image cultivated by some manufacturers.

      The good news is that there are many very good cameras at all price points, and I still believe that for many people (particularly fairly inexperienced or casual users) they would do just fine with a very low cost model that will meet 99% of their needs.

      • NMc says:

        A common difference between cars and cameras is that the reputation of the base models is very important for selling higher end variants and larger more expensive model lines for cars. Most camera companies try to sell consumer ILC models based specs for the high end model/s of the range, rather than sell the range based on the reputation for the platform. Over simplified but I’m sure you know what I mean.

    • Adrian says:

      P.S. I should have said that some of my favourite digital cameras have been the Sony A200/230, an entry level SLR, an E mount Alpha 3000 (a kind of NEX 3 in a small SLR sized body with a very low resolution evf, that cost about £230 with a lens and a battery), and my recent A5100 with its small form and touchscreen AF. Why? Because they all take really excellent photos in spite of being entry level products, and being simple, they are easy to use and encourage a kind of “fun” – their is liberation in their low cost and simplicity that means you can just get in with taking photos. They aren’t cool, desirable, prestige, and don’t really have any “image” at all, but unlike Beetles and Limos, they also aren’t terrible. They are a kind of invisible “non-camera”. DS has “undestination” – should we also have the “non cameras”?

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      You want roads that are a disgrace – try the US!

  • Adrian says:

    I’ve often felt that the higher tier models reflected glory further down the model range. Lexus reportedly don’t make any miney on the £350k LFA, and VW claimed the Bugatti Veyron was always sold at a loss – but I assumed they did it as it made the affordable models look cool.

    The Veyron is a good example of.some of what I discuss – the VW PR machine went into overdrive getting journalists to talk about how hard it was to make a 1000hp engine and endlessly repeat press pack stats. It’s no doubt why the Germans were so annoyed when an American took a tuned Corvette engine that produced considerably more than the Veyron, put it in a plastic car, and best VWs speed record.

    Conversely, I’m convinced that the reason journalists are so positive about some models is because the version they had to test was the top spec model with every optional extra, rather than the boring 1.4l shopping version without any equipment to flatter and divert their attention.

    Camera makers have hero products too, that I assume reflect glory down the range – but I agree that until recently the consumer end of the range was where the profit was (because of volume), so spec was very important. Recently, with that whole segment in decline, they seem to retrenched further up their model ranges.

  • Adrian, excellent post and very thought provoking. The pics are excellent.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Very nice pics, Adrian, and a beautiful rendering… “The only way is down” has a color palette that I find very appealing!
    Seems to me that I recognized Chiang Mai? I live there a few weeks per year 🙂
    Another comparison with cameras is my activity, High Fidelity… blind brand loyalty pushes audiophiles to the same stupid “clan” behavior… ridiculous. Pre-conceptions abound… and mass-market brands offer endless models and lines, ad nauseam!

  • Adrian says:

    Hi Pascal, thanks for your kind comments. The first few photos were taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The only way is down has some HDR applied in SilkyPix and uses one of the film simulations in the software – it’s added a watery green tint which I quite liked.

    Hifi is another good comparison – another sector that has had to weather significant changes to the market (mp3s, downloads, streaming etc). I’m also a bit of an audiophile, though still run equipment last upgraded about 15 years ago.

    • Pascal Ravach says:

      Well, with the exception of DACs, where the chips evolution has a strong impact, other hi-fi components age well, if carefully chosen. A musical turntable, CD transport, amplifier, speaker, cable, rack, etc… build 15 years ago can still give more musical pleasure than zillions of mediocre products released every day… at alll prices.

      • Adrian says:

        I’ve got Naim Audio.
        Does anyone actually buy CD players any more? I’m sort of surprised manufacturers are still in business! Nasty MP3 streaming is king in our race to the bottom (convenience over quality).

        • Pascal Ravach says:

          I was a Naim dealer in my youth 🙂
          And yes, my knowledgeable customers still by CDs… dematerialized music still has progress to do 🙂
          MP3 is so bad that none of us musice lovers in my group use it..

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          MP3 does it for pop etc. Classical requires something more. Vinyl is OK except for dust etc . CD works but it’s a bit dry and the people who make them limit bandwidth too much because the people who developed the technology told them to & they’ve done so, unquestioningly. (I’ve made some by transcribing stuff, with bandwodth oprned out, and they sound much better).
          I had the argument over which is better, CD or vinyl, with my idiot knowall brother, years ago. I pointed out it was a question of personal preference, which simply inflamed him. I also pointed out that they are both no more than an electro mechsnical means of producing an artificial substitute for music, and that made him even madder. So I walked off telling him he didn’t know what he was talking a out, that if he wanted to to hear “music” he should go to a concert, instead of getting up all the time in a futile to stop the crackle of dust or turn the disc over. After all, I’d studied music at the conservatorium and did have some idea what it really sounds like. Which also failed to calm him down.
          Why tell you guys? Because we”re constantly beseiged by people with “opinions”, telling us they’re right and we’re wrong.
          One of the things I like about photography and groups like this is that we see less “opinionitis” and more knowledge sharing.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Cameras .. and .. cars.
    Great! 🙂 !

    Not to forget men’s electr(on)ic razors…
    Two camps, rotating and oscillating.
    Two subcamps, with cable and rechargeable.
    With(out) “intelligent” electronics.
    Etc. …
    Plus a lot of “mine’s the best” … just as with cars and cameras.

    Some say men are still boys, the difference being the cost of their toys – probably somewhat true of some men.
    ( In 1977 I had to fly between Frankfurt and Stockholm a few times; there was usually a magazine in the seatback pocket in front: “Boy’s Toys”, exclusive stuff!)

    • Adrian says:

      There is no doubt in my.mind that many things marketed at men are boys toys, that appeal to the 8 year old lurking inside most adult men. It’s probably why Tesla have garnered such praise for largely un-innovqtive products – they are festooned with gimmicks (large touchscreens, “warp mode”, “ludicrous mode”) but ultimately don’t include any technical innovation that cannot easily be copied. PR hyperbole and press pack statistics reign in autoland.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Great post? Fantastic post!
    GAS is dead!
    People with selfie sticks just suffer from short arm syndrome & can’t hold the cellphone far enoough away!
    I recently hot rid of my two Hondas & bought a Yaris. The Hondas went because they had defective CVG automatic transmissions & neither Honda nor their distributor would do snything to rectify it. Toyota was selected to rrplace Honda because they have a long standing reputation for better engineering – and also because when they used one of these CVG transmissions, they had the sense of decency to recall all the affected cars I& replace the transmission. Yaris was chosen simply because the width suited better in my narrow driveway.
    All of which bears a startling resemblance to your remarkd, Adrian.

    • Adrian says:

      Pete, thanks for your kind words.
      Sorry to hear about your Honda’s – I am somewhat surprised as they have a solid reputation. I’ve owned 2 many years ago which seemed to have unbreakable engines. My mum had an old Toyota Corolla which never went wrong, and a friend drives one as a taxi in Bangkok, and they seem equally unbreakable. Every minicab driver in London also tells me the Prius is totally reliable. It’s the difference between European car makers, who have to make a big fuss about “quality” as an indicator of “premium”, and the Japanese for whom quality is “enough” and more about process. Of course Toyota was villified in American the other year, mostly for committing the crime of not being American. At least the US authorities had the decency to lock up one of the senior VW executives over dieselgate.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      PS – sorry about all the typos, Adrian – on tour, no access to a computer, and I have great difficulty with the keypad on my tablet!

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    First: Adrian, I really enjoyed the photography. Those images had what I like to refer to as “presence”. They drew me in and made me linger and look. Thank you, Adrian.
    Second: I only buy a vehicle or a camera after I discover an actual need for a feature or quality that is not available on the one I currently own.
    I bought a small AWD SUV in 2011 because I often drove on out-of-the-way, unimproved roads in places where it wouldn’t be a good experience to be stranded. Also, my wife used that vehicle to drive to work and the roads were often slick in the winter time and I felt more secure about her safety with the AWD. Later I had the occasion to have that SUV on an icy hill where other vehicles had already slid off the road. Using the paddle shifter to keep the transmission from shifting up I was able to get up the hill without incident. Score some good points for a never again used (so far) paddle shifter, but it worked when I needed it and I got to a location where I made a photo of a snow scene and sold it for a substantial price.
    Three years ago wife and I bought a travel trailer. I already had a 4×4 truck that I liked but after 500 miles of towing I felt that it would be underpowered if we went to the mountains. So, I took it to the dealer where I bought it and tried to trade it in for one with more horsepower and greater towing capacity. I met with the sales manager and he took me out to look at a very nice truck of the same brand.
    It turned out to be very much more expensive than the 4×4 truck I currently owned. It did have more horsepower but the towing capacity was exactly the same. So, where did all the extra expense come from? Leather seats and built-in electronic gadgets and inconsequential but expensive little “thingies” that didn’t interest me at all.
    I asked him if he had a truck with more towing capacity like I wanted and he said that I would need a 3/4 ton. I said OK, lets go look at it. But he was more interested in showing me how the brake pedal could be adjusted in length and how the GPS could help me find my way home. I’m six feet tall and couldn’t give a rat’s patoot about adjustable brake pedals and I still have the mental faculty to find my way where I want to go.
    So, I gave him 15 minutes, got out of the truck and left and left him standing there.
    I went to another dealer with a different brand of truck and found exactly what I wanted. I got 381 hp and 401 ft pounds of torque and increased the towing capacity to 10,500 pounds. Also, got more comfortable seats and all the necessary electronics for safety (plus a Serius XM radio and bluetooth telephone) all for $11,500 less than the luxury truck with inadequate performance that the sales manager had tried to sell me. Yeah, I switched brands. I’m driving a Tundra instead of a Silverado now and I fully expect that it will last longer than I will.
    I didn’t need or want all that extra miscellaneous crap the sales manager was using to try to boost my desire for pride of ownership and make me want his truck. My ego doesn’t work in that direction. Function over crap.
    Same with cameras. I bought the D850 and a 500mm f/4G lens because I’m into photographing birds. I thought the added mpx and better lens than the one I was using would help me get more detailed pictures of birds. Turns out I was right (most of the time). Little songbirds need lots of cropping even when shooting with a 500mm lens at at very short distances of 15 to 30 feet. The added mpx of the D850 and longer focal length of the sharper lens turned out to be good choices.
    As far as the mirrorless Z7, it is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist for me so I’ll pass on it. It might be the latest and greatest thing for the ego but like I said, my ego doesn’t work in that direction. Besides, the people I know can only be impressed with results.

    • Adrian says:

      Cliff, firstly thank you so much for your kind comments about the photographs in this article. Ultimately they are my holiday photos from last year – I’d be really interested to know any photos you particularly like, or don’t like, and what it is that draws you to them?
      As for cars… To many Europeans, I think the American car market – and American car buyers – is very different to what they know. European manufacturers have only just entered the market for pickup trucks, with products that are largely incapable, more expensive than established Asian rivals, and with interiors taken from one of their passenger cars. I remember a review of a Range Rover where it was noted that the buttons and switches were all large so that they could be used with gloved hands in cold weather or the countryside, whereas the expensive German rival SUVs had switchgear taken from passenger cars, and were small and fiddly. SUVs are now the top selling type of vehicle in the UK, but not the type that can be driven off road, but “cross overs” which have a fashion conscious “off road” body style but are mostly incapable of serious off roading. They are fashion products mostly sold on brand image,
      Back to cameras, I’ve often wondered if there is a difference with American photographers, because often they seem to travel by road (car). Much of my photography is don’t 1000s of miles from home where my entire system has to fit into airline hand luggage, and hence size and weight become very important (one of the reasons for my original switch to mirrorless, although not the only one). I’ve never owned a prime lens longer than 200mm, or a something-300mm variable aperture zoom, and use APS-C to effectively “crop” stage event work that I photograph.
      This photos in this article are slightly unusual as they were all taken with APS-C as on that trip I was travelling very mlight (by my standards).

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Looking at your post again this morning while I’m waiting for my wife to wake up.
    To answer your question – no – my camera only takes photos and my car does nothing of the kind.
    Actually while I was reading (“devouring!”) the text of your article, my mind kept spinning back to my current choice of cameras – Nikon’s D500 & D850.
    Not everyone’s choice, and why indeed should they be? If we were all the same, we would have had to choose between being hermaphrodites (comme les escargots), or extinction, neither of which appeals to me.
    But my two cameras complement each other and suit my photography perfectly, and I’ve all but lost interest in other cams coming onto the market. The cards, the batteries, the overall design & handling, the menu systems, the lot. Seamless integration – except one favours one part of my photography and the other the rest of it.
    Getting back to your post Adrian – I was completely blown away by it. The originality, the quality & style, the intellectual content, the maturity! And if your photography is that good, I think you owe us all an apology for not sharing more of it with the rest of us, more often!

    • Adrian says:

      Pete, you may be interested to know that in the UK, Citroen were running a TV ad campaign for one of their cars, in which the main feature was the ability to take photos and upload them to social media. Now, clearly someone in the marketing department at Citroen had noticed that consumers of a certain age and type are totally obsessed with social media – but then somehow decided that Citroen wanted a piece of that action, and so it was a feature set that would make them buy cars. I’m not making any of this up, and it wasn’t April.

      As for cameras and “needs”, my posit was that much like car buyers, we are influenced either conscious or unconsciously by certain biases and preconceptions about brand, our status as a photographer etc. It’s what makes a business for Zeiss selling Otus lenses – most of them aren’t sold to and used by professionals who for some reason might need that level of performance, they are sold to rich amateurs who think they need them. (you choose your own brand for similar comment, it’s not just Zeiss).

      I’m coming to the conclusion that in some ways I’m not the type of person or photographer who is that bothered by things that seem to be very very important to some other internet commentators (grip size, menu structure, battery life). Maybe it’s just because my mind works in a certain way.

      As for your comments about my holiday photographs, you are too kind. I’ve had a lot of family problems that have caused a lot of worry and stress, and so my ability to travel has been much reduced. It’s also reduced my interest in and enthusiasm for wanting to take photos. That trip was for relaxation rather than photography. I’m glad you like the results. Pascal and I discussed that sometimes adverse situations can lead to more creativity.

  • immodoc says:

    Hi, in a way, my cameras are like my cars. I have an 27 year-old Mercedes S-class matching my 9 year-old Leica M9.

    My more practical Mercedes E-430 V8 4Matic estate is reflected in my SONY A7R2 I like for its high ISO, IS, for travelling,
    and in my NIKON D800 I use for cars in action.

    Most of my acquaintances have several cars, my little sister with her Porsche 911 being an exception …

    It is good to have several cars, so one can take the one most suitable for the specific purpose.

    And the same goes for camera systems. Thus, one avoids the monomania of some single-brand owners, too.

    (Over the years, I also owned BMW, Nissan and Subaru cars.)

    The good thing about Leica is that most people perceive it as non-threatening. They either think it is an old camera,
    and so, you are harmless. Or they think you are rich, and so you won’t take anything away … 😉

  • Adrian says:

    I’ve got Naim Audio.
    Does anyone actually buy CD players any more? I’m sort of surprised manufacturers are still in business! Nasty MP3 streaming is king in our race to the bottom (convenience over quality).

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    I just reread your article and enjoy your market description(s) even more, and most of your illustrations are so to the point!

    I think that when one subtracts all that marketing and hype it boils down to that most “sensible” cameras, and cars, are really good enough – unless one has special needs, like e.g. muddy lanes, deep snow, fast sport or night photos, or *very* large prints.

    So I come to think of another very good read.
    Kirk Tuck in his latest blog post compares photos from different gear to show the unimportance of the camera model – and also points a finger at all that hype.
    – – –

    Cars …
    ( The VW Beetle sure had some downsides, but in deep snow or on a muddy lane it might surprise you positively.)
    The most flexible car I’ve had was the Citroën Dyane, a 2CV in other clothing, also the best car I’ve had in snow except that it was never warm – and not at all safe in case of a collision.
    ( I was once – in my 30s – tempted by a Porsche 356 in great shape at a low price! For some days I had to steadily remind myself that I didn’t need another toy but a practical car..)

    Cameras …
    My most flexible coat-pocketable camera was the 6x6cm rangefinder Zeiss Superikonta w. Tessar 75mm/3.5, and you set the EV and then dialed speed and aperture together!
    ( The Leica M3 and later the Rollei SL66 did tempt me, but one wasn’t the best at close-ups and the other too bulky for me – and then the price, even as used!)

  • Adrian says:

    Hi Kristian, I’m glad you liked the article, which genuinely started from.becoming bored by all the “this one is best in class because of its class leading economy” journalism, most of which was clearly copied from the manufacturers press pack. It just struck me one day that to an extent, some camera journalism – particularly the online sources – were starting to be the same. It’s all about segmentation, statistics, and lifestyle marketing and PR.

    I’ve never understood why the VW Beetle became an American symbol of counter-culture beloved by hippies. Designed by Hitler’s auto company and cynically used to raise money for the war effort, and by many accounts a fairly horrible car.

    Conversely, the Citroen 2CV I regard as one of Citroen’s many inspired and forward thinking pieces of design.

    As I came to photography in the 1990s, I have no experience of older film cameras. One of my favourite pocket cameras was a Ricoh R100, a derivation of the R10 that came from the GR1. It had a modest 30mm f3.5 lens but on occasion took really excellent photos (there was no manual control). The Olympus Mju II also gets an honourable mention.

    In comparison, today’s enthusiast oriented pocket cameras – no doubt the work of the same segmentation, specification driven marketing etc – just seem too fiddly and complicated, with essentially a similar level of control as an SLR, but in a tiny body.

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