Brand loyalty

In what seems like another life, I was a photographer off and on for years. I was obsessed. I watched my parents watch television for a week as part of a University of Chicago study and spent my pay on a 35mm rangefinder. I wore it out.

At one point I rented time in a communal darkroom until I got my own space. After my wife left me, I made my apartment a studio and slept under huge hanging rolls of background paper.

I read photography, I thought photography, I lived photography. Most of all, I pushed film. I worked for a big commercial studio and as a freelancer shooting parties, weddings, portraits, real estate, coats and cuties who read too many magazines. I once shot the profession of a priest.

For all of this time, after the initial rangefinder, I used the same brand of camera and lenses and whatnot. It was probably more than I needed, but it had a great reputation, and I was imitating a guy who’d told me he wanted the best tools so if he didn’t get the result he wanted, he’d know it was his fault. Everything I was about was riding on my equipment, and only one camera company got my money.

Then I sold everything and headed into the sunset on a bicycle. I moved to another state and another set of jobs and another wife, this time with children, and then another state and, finally, another camera.

I’d been itching for years, and my time had come. Of course, I couldn’t imagine buying a different brand. My brand cost more than the others, and I knew it would. That was one of the things I could count on, along with buttery controls and perfect lenses.

I bought it over my wife’s objections—we were gonna share it, and paying top dollar offends her. That’s how much I wanted that camera.

I counted, too, on the camera being designed to make photographs, maybe take some pictures. I guess it was, more or less. After I’d used it a while, I realized that it was designed to make photographs, but it didn’t really think much of my judgment and would rather do things itself. It was forever chiding me about something, flashing at me and second-guessing my decisions.

The designers didn’t have me in mind when they finalized their plan for that camera. I don’t know who they were thinking about, but it wasn’t me. Microsoft Word’s animated paper clip wasn’t for me, either.

I eventually could make the now-overpriced camera do some of what I wanted, but it was a struggle, demanding much drilling down in poorly worded menus and pushing tiny black buttons with black writing on them. The fun was nowhere on any menu.

My brand had failed me. I was crushed, disillusioned, disappointed. And my wife had never wanted it anyway, so I was wrong, too.

I’m closing in on another camera, and I won’t buy my old brand this time. I expect it to be difficult. I’ll get over it.