#1323. Just buy any gear and enjoy it?

By pascaljappy | How-To

Nov 14

Robert Zajonc tells us to stop being wusses and that we’ll just get to love anything we own.

Zombie Forest

Mere Exposure Effect.

Mr Zajonc, leading voice in this theory of human psychology, tells us that the more we are exposed to a stimulus, the more likely we become to enjoy it. My past experiences with Sony tend to prove otherwise, but there again his theory has us covered as it mainly applies to neutral and positive stimuli, to which Sony ergonomics of the bad old days did not belong, by any stretch of the imagination.

So, to sum up, to end the cycle of gear selection torture that many blogs, youtube channels and media have turned into a (profitable ?) business model, mere exposure effect tells us to simply buy anything that’s not bad and just use it. Eventually, we’ll get to enjoy it.

For Lad, who awoke my interest in such things 🙂

The elegant thing to do would be to end the post here. That, after all, is the important – scientific – takeaway for all of us: stop fretting, buy anything decent and have fun with it. And, whatever the pundits write online, there isn’t a single bad camera or lens on the market today. So, the end.

Instead, let me be a spoiled brat for a minute.

If we want the functionality of taking photos, let’s just buy phones. They do 99% of that job perfectly well (for us amateurs). But when we buy gear, it’s for more than just functionality. We expect some pleasure, fun and satisfaction from the outlay, on top of the removal of difficulties.

Chestnut Heaven

My last posts discussing gear-selection gave a very objective set of rules for making decisions about whether or not to purchase that next piece of gear. This might lead readers to think my decisions are all rational and rule-based. And while I do try to make that true in my pro life, nothing could be further from the truth in its more recreational corners, in particular when it comes to HiFi and photo. Emotion and desire rule the day here.

In my case – and in the case of many others, I’m sure – Early Exposure (not an official psychology term, but a specific aspect of the theory) probably takes precedence over Mere Exposure.

Our emotional preferences, such as taste in partners, music, art, and various other aspects of life, tend to be strongly influenced by repeated exposure during our early – formative – years of life. For example, I believe we are drawn to partners who look like whoever we were exposed to at an age when we became receptive to sensual charm. Specialists in the room: please confirm or counter this statement 🙂

Shards of the past

This would suggest searching for gear that influenced you positively when you first became infatuated with photography. Was the photo on of lions chasing prey in Africa, HCB’s observations of human quirkiness, a Sally Mann 20 inch contact print, a small carbon print of a 1950s fashion icon, an Instawham snapshot … What was the associated gear?

Two moments stand out from my 4 decades of wasting electrons and halides in search of photographic bliss :

First. At uni, a microelectronics lab had just bought electron-beam microscopes and no longer needed their fantastic darkroom equipment. They gave me the keys, no questions asked. And, eventually, I made a great print. By accident, but great nonetheless. That instant, I understood that post processing was more than half the equation for me. So my gear needs to preserve data above all. Much like the initial Leica Monochom, that stunned the great unwashed media with its low contrast and gorgeous RAW files, cameras that don’t clip and offer huge bit depth are what rule my world. Fix it in post, as Marques Brownlee says about the Pixel 8. Of course, all of this was in b&w, hence my continued infatuation with mono.


Second. The Mamiya 7. Hands down the best camera ever made, in my book, even though it is a rangefinder. Almost as sharp as my 4×5 but far cheaper and more pleasant to use (I’m not much of a tripod wielder) and, more importantly, 6×7. Dubbed the ideal format, and not without reason, 6×7 offers a rendering that’s much sharper and dreamier than 35mm but not as fine-arty as large format. The perfect compromise, to my eyes. And probably because the photos I loved as a kid were made using that sort of format.

Now, I would give a politician’s lung to get my hands on a digital 6×7. I’d give the pair for a Mamiya 7 and the labs to process my film. Let’s face it, digital cameras are mostly software and people creating them don’t seem to have developed (!) the same sensitivity to aesthetics as film stock chemists. Sorry devs. And just like most EVs are as much fun to drive as a smoothing iron, digital cameras are nowhere near as pleasant to use as their, über simple, celluloid-based ancestors. But, owning 2 Mamiya 7 bodies in the “recent” past has shown me how difficult life can be out in the boonies with no one local to talk to about your rolls. Film is a no go, and a man’s got to breathe, even a politician.

Digital it is, even though the absence of grain makes file look sterile, and unnatural, like being an anechoic chamber. No natural place on Earth has no noise. No natural sight on Earth comes to resolution limits in the way digital does (fluglily and lifelessly, that is).


Both those origin stories and corresponding constraints lead me to what I feel is the Mamiya 7’s spiritual successor: the Hasselblad X1D. The X2D is better in every measurable way, but doesn’t call to me in the same visceral fashion. Nor does anything else I can think of on the market today, except for cine cameras (Red Raptor, anyone?) that bring back the same focus on aesthetics and preserving highlights as film did back in the day.

But what about you?

Can you think of any lustful aha moments early in your photography “career” that might still influence your tastes years or decades later? If so, my recommendation would be to focus on similar gear. As similar as you are likely to find, anyway.

Slippery slope

And that’s not blogging fluff intended to elicit comments.

Lacking a clear definition of photographic values or a sense of aesthetics, most of the market and the media cling to the easiest wieldable alternative: quantitative measurement. That made plenty of sense when the limits of digital were severe compared to film. But these disappeared a long long time ago, and it’s been at least 5 years since we reached peak-sensor, i.e. sensors have not made any progress since then (possibly longer) and have at best maintained quality while adding AF spots and smaller pixels. Mostly though, they haven’t even done that. Software saved them, is all.

So, it is my true belief that you should look back at your early photo years to identify the things that stirred your loins then and can make you happy today. That gear makes a good starting point, both emotionally satisfying and intellectually valid. From there, add bits and bobs thinking about how those make your life easier (removing important limits and other problems, as described in previous posts).

Standing proud

I’ll now return to waiting for Hassy to release a 42 Mp 6×7 camera with perfect highlight management and true 16 bit depth. Or for any other brand to create a camera with important modern features (SSD, IBIS) but not the quantitative surplus that serves no purpose for some of us. A boy can dream.

PS1: Kirk Turk shares similar views on metrics that really matter in photo gear. Thank you David for sharing this.

PS2: All photos made in the forest around the little village of Collobrières. More soon about this area. This forest is the closest I’ve come to Fangorn outside of fantasy pages.


​Never miss a post

​Like what you are reading? Subscribe below and receive all posts in your inbox as they are published. Join the conversation with thousands of other creative photographers.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    You nail it, dear Pascal… my first camera was an OM-1, around 1982 (so 10 years after its introduction) with the 50F1.8; followed by no less than 13 Olympus bodies (got my fever too…), ended with the two OM-4 (one Ti) I still own today… guess what? I just purchased the new OM Systems… OM-1 🙂
    It costs an awful lot for a M43, could buy a modern Nikon Z or whatever… but « the bond » is there.
    So linking our choices to our first loves makes sense to me at least!
    And to hell with « clipped highlights, less DR, less subtle tones » etc… I have « fun » 🙂

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Hi Pascal,

    Robert Zajonc might tell you that. Klaus Schawb tells us that by 2030 you will own nothing and you WILL be happy. 🙂 and he is the leading voice in world domination and population control. If Zajonc is to be believed about continued exposure relating to enjoyment – spoiler alert – I cannot wait to see how ecstatic you will be when you find the colour switch on your camera. 🙂 🙂 p.s. it seems the Sony exception proves Zajoncs rule does it not ?

    Looking back to my first exposure to photography , school days and having the keys to the photo lab, to be honest I cannot remember what gear or film I used. Was I happy with it, probably not half as happy having forgotten about those days for 45 years before picking up a camera again. Sure the smell of those chemicals lingers in the memory but then so does failure of being able to produce a halfway decent image of numerous tries. What does Zajonc have to say about instant gratification i wonder ?

    There is probably much to be said for embracing wabi sabi when it comes to gear – especially from ones bank manager.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well there is one heavily wabi-sabied camera in my bag 😉 It’s the only camera in my bag. And it’s now as battered as they come. Still love it to bits (colour switch or no colour swicth, cheeky bugger 😀 )

      Don’t get me started on instant gratification. Not good for my blood pressure.

  • Lad Sessions says:


    Good advice, along with stunning B&W images! Of course I love the ‘shrooms, but also the tree trunks with character.

    My experience in high school borrowing gear from a journalist was formative: negative for double-reflex cameras (does anyone squint down at these today?), positive for brief use of a Leica (M-3 perhaps?). He wouldn’t let me use his Hassey, or I’d probably have an undying and unsatisfiable lust for those cameras, but I do admire them from afar.

    I’ve had the opposite reaction to Sony products: first the RX100, a pocketable miracle, then the RX10, same sensor but better lens, and now a full-frame A-7III, which does everything I want (though needing new lenses!).

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah, the RX cameras looked great! My A7r and A7r 2 were an exercise in ergonomic frustration, unreliability and shockingly poor colours. Never again, although I know intellectually that all of this is a thing of the past.

      • Lad Sessions says:

        I have no experience with earlier A7 models; the A7III is quite good enough for me (at least for now!). I find that out-of-the-camera RAW images need some massaging, which ON1 (mostly) does quite well. Satisficing!

        –Guess that’s a report about me, not about cameras!

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Yes, use the gear you have right now. In this day and age, there will always be the next best thing – you don’t need it! Don’t waste your time, get out there and shoot!
    Really lovely forest images, Pascal! You’ve proven that you can see the forest for the trees.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Ha ha ha – I think it might be better if I don’t start talking about things that stirred my loins when I was younger!
    Pascal, this topic [not that one – the one in your article!] comes up endlessly. And my response is always “to each, his own”. You can find that in latin – french – english even! – hindi – and most other languages, I imagine.
    The “mob” has gone with cellphones – ce n’est pas pour moi, although I do occasionally use the phone to grab a snapshot. I have always loved cameras and always will – my ancestors were taking photos back from the 1850s onwards – hundreds upon hundreds of them – using collodion wet plates of course, at that stage – and large wooden frame cameras – carting their gear around in a horse drawn cart.
    The cellphone represents a triumph of marketing and convenience over quality and art. IMHO, anyway.
    But it someone else wants to – I’ve never given a toss, what others want – that’s entirely their affair, not mine.
    I did read something interesting somewhere recently – damned if I can find it again – written by a venerable and revered professional, writing for the benefit of “the next generation”. And towards the end he said something I greatly admire – in the context of who (apart from you, yourself) gives a damn WHAT gear you choose to use, he said something to the effect that “after all – you go into an art gallery to admire Da Vinci’s painting – you don’t fossick around to find the gear he used to paint it, or discuss which of his brushes he used to do it”. Very sound comment, I thought. On the pages of DS, I’ve seen thousands of images – occasionally there might be questions about meta data – but not that often are there any questions about “which camera did you use” – or “what lens”. And I don’t think I’ve EVER seen one asking “which filter” or “which tripod head”!
    The author of the article often volunteers some of this info.
    But as I “read” through the articles, I usually find myself treating them as a photo gallery, and stop to stare at each of the images. Come back later, to see what I missed by overlooking the text. It’s hard to read when you’re looking at one of Nancee’s masterpieces, and saying to yourself “OMG, just look at THAT, will you?” I do end up reading it all, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that the pictures keep taking control over my eyeballs. Bad habit, I guess – probably what started stirring my loins, way back when I was younger, since you mention it!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well that’s fantastic. At the end of the day, it’s about the photographs! And the journey 🙂

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Yes – well – I’ve not the faintest idea what you think of the images you included in this post, Pascal – but I found something inside me hitting the “pause” button, each time it adjusted the screen to see the image properly. And then stopped to explore the image, upside down and sideways – every bit of it. Because I was enjoying the experience, and loved doing it. Not on a mission to criticise or praise – just because I like looking at other people’s photos – drawings – paintings – sculptures – whatever! And these images remind me of my 5-year old nephew’s painting of “the spirits of the trees” – which I’m sure I’ve told you about, back along the track.

  • Danny Chau says:

    Yes, life is all about experience as that’s all we can take with us when the journey ends. Just enjoy whatever you can afford and never need to dream gears you can’t. 🙂

  • Michael Keppler says:

    Your pictures are absolutely fantastic Pascal!

    What you write is 100% true for me. I’ve found that I look for the same user experience in every new camera that I’m used to from many years with analogue SLRs. I hate digging through menus, I need an aperture ring on the lens and a dial to choose between aperture priority and shutter priority. OK, the exposure compensation dial on modern mirrorless cameras is handy… Friends who ask me about good cameras never want to hear that – but more important than test charts are the feel and the acoustics. Do I like the camera, do I like touching it? Does it sound good? Does it suit me? Maybe it’s because of my profession as an architect – things have to look good, have a high-quality finish and be made of good materials that age well and feel good. If there is also a degree of familiarity or the things are even linked to memories or experiences, an emotional connection is created.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you very much Michael.

      Your experience with the ergonomics of digital cameras matches mine. Film cameras had evolved over decades towards an unofficial concensus, and were very intuitive to use. And it’s OK that digital cameras work differently, but it’s really hard to find any deep loginc in the layout of dials and buttons. The only goal is to cram as much as possible on the camera to give the illusion that it can do so much stuff. I too prefer simpler, more elegant and better build gear. And I’d have loved to be an architec (my daughter is finishing university to become one 🙂 ) Cheers.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    I can’t hear Old Man Willow whisper
    – but I can hear the wind sigh,
    and the moss grow…

    They are rare, such forests, as are your photos.
    And they’re very inspiring!
    – * –

    [ Right you are on gear!
    I wonder – if digital had come before film, wouldn’t some try to make grain look like digital noise?]

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah, that’s a fun question 😉 😉

      I don’t think so. Grain has an organic look and nature. Digital noise looks like the image is breaking up. I often add fake film noise to my photos in PP, to add a tiny bit of warmth to them, but I’d happily get rid of digital noise forever 😉


      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        True enough, Pascal,
        but don’t forget that with digital first there would surely have been a lot of software that massaged noice in different ways to look nice.

        ( And then there would have been a rush to exaggerate that as the new aesthetics – just like exaggerated grain was a la mode in film in the 1960’s – 70’s.)

        And when film then came along that good old digital look would be imitated by many manufacturers – for a while.


  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Be careful what you wish for, Pascal. “I believe we are drawn to partners who look like whoever we were exposed to at an age when we became receptive to sensual charm. Specialists in the room: please confirm or counter this statement.”

    I’m afraid not – speaking as a former specialist, my tastes throughout that portion of my life were extremely eclectic. It was the era when we’d all been liberated from “consequences”, by the invention of “the Pill”. Which upended conventional behaviour, and set us all off exploring fresh fields and pastures new.

    However, I think it might be better to return to the subject of photography, and not pursue this any further.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “In post #518, over 6 years ago, I proposed that camera manufacturers wisen up to the fact that most of us walk around with supercomputers donning superb screens, in our pockects. And lamented that, instead of fulfilling its promise of simplifying life, digital had made photography unduly complicated.” — Pascal Jappy, Feb 2023

    And here we are, heading towards the end of the year, and for the most part – well ignoring cellphones, they’re not “real” cameras, they’re just AI Box Brownies! – “cameras” seem to be getting increasingly complex.

    Once upon a time – best, for me, was the Zeiss Contarex – others got something similar from Rollei and the Zenza Bronica. ISO was easy – you had magazine backs, you just changed them to the one you wanted. BTW that also covered choosing B&W or colour. After that – three controls – shutter speed aperture & focus. No university degree required – instead of struggling with a 360 page manual or a seemingly endless menu, and a whole lot of control buttons you’ve already forgotten the meaning of, you were able to focus your attention on the REAL game – “taking a photograph”! Who on earth would have ever imagined that any of us would ever have wanted to do THAT?

    The cop out is the cellphone – but I’m afraid it has technical limitations that are seemingly insuperable which delete it from the list of options I can consider for what I want to do with my photography. Might suit some – certainly doesn’t suit me. Except perhaps for snapshots of the dog, or something.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes. It seems that a lot of photographers are not in it for the creativity and actually enjoy fiddling around. Hey, give the people what they want, right? Oh wait, that never works does it? 😉 Hence the megadomination of phones over cameras. Oh well …

  • >