The best is not always the best

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Full moon rising over the Sila massif

Welcome back, I hope you all had a nice vacation.

Today we will talk a bit about the importance of following our gut when making decisions about the gear we use.

Obviously there is the technical aspect first: the gear you choose has to be able to deliver “the goods”. If you are a sport photographer, shooting with a Leica M9 might be pleasing, but probably not very effective. But even after you take care of that aspect, you will still left with many concurrent options. Which one will you choose? Follow your gut. The best way I can explain why is with an example, please bear with me.

Many many years ago for a short time I got hooked on hifi equipment. I was listening to a lot of music back then, still playing a bit of guitar, so I decided I wanted a really nice hifi setup.

I put together the best I could afford, not something outrageously expensive like you hear sometimes, but nonetheless I spent a lot of time and effort reading reviews and listening to how the various components played together – seem familiar, isn’t it? It is basically the audio equivalent of pixel peeping. I ended up with a great setup where cd player – remember those? -, amplifier, cables and speakers work, to these days, beautifully together.

Fast forward a few years. My mom wanted a stereo setup, but she was hesitating in getting one because it had to harmonize with her mostly antique furniture. This basically excluded every compact stereo setup known to man. But for my mom’s birthday I managed to find a beautifully made replica of an antique radio with inside a cd player, an amplifier and a powerful speaker. The only problem: it was from an unknown manufacturer, I was buying it online so no chance of testing it beforehand, and even the various pieces – cd player etc. -, where no-brand units.

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Sunset over the Sila massif

Long story short: that darn thing sounds better than my carefully assembled hi-fi setup. It is as good in technical terms? No, it’s not. I can hear nuances and sounds on my setup – running the same cd on both – that I cannot hear on my mom’s “fake antique radio”. But every cd I ever listened on both is way more pleasing to hear when played in that wooden case with cheap components stuffed in it than on my hi-fi setup.

I learned the lesson, and I’ve applied it to photography as well.

The moral of the story is: follow your gut. If the pictures you’re getting from a piece of technically inferior gear are more pleasing or easier to capture than the ones taken with an über-camera than you know what you have to use.