Get ready for some grumpy, burnt out bitching about camera stuff from writers who possibly spend a bit too much time shooting them. You’re still here? Wow. Well, let’s do it.
In our Desert Island Cameras series, I ask the guys here at CP to write a bit about their absolute favorite camera from a given brand. We’ve picked the crème de la crème from brands like Nikon, Minolta, and more.
Today we’re doing something different; instead, we’ve picked our least favorite cameras. The ones that really get our goats. The cameras that annoy us to death even as everybody else seems to love them. Here are the cameras that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why.
Jeb’s Pick – Olympus Mju II
I was only a few rolls into my $15 Mju when I started to feel pangs of regret. The photos looked good, but not amazing. Later, I spent just $10 on the Infinity Zoom, the zoomy version of the same camera, and strutted the streets feeling a bit better. That is, until I noticed the looks of disgust leveled at the sight of my beautiful Mju with its comically long zoom lens protruding from the legendarily slim frame. Plus, the pictures still weren’t amazing. Why had I heard so many amazing things about these Olympus compacts?
Then it hit me. What I needed was a Mju II. And to get one I’d only have to spend ten times the amount of money as I spent on the oldie. For $200 (or more) I’d gain one stop on my maximum aperture and that sweet, sweet fixed lens. Finally I’d be able to take decent photos! More importantly, I’d be able to spend my time doing what really matters; taking Instagram photos of my new Mju II placed neatly next to a lit cigarette, cup of coffee and the Sunday Times. If I’m really feeling it, some avocado toast.
Like with most things everyone seems to universally love (The Beatles), I’m somehow inclined to recoil from the Mju II and the hype surrounding it. I’m not quite willing to spend hundreds of dollars on one in great condition, and yes, I might roll my eyes at people that do. Seriously, this point-and-shoot revival is getting out of control. These aren’t mechanical tanks that could theoretically last forever, or at least be repaired if they do break. These point-and-shoots are bound to start breaking, and when this tech fails, good luck finding a Mju specialist. And let’s be honest, the photos they make aren’t that special.
Did we learn nothing from 2008? We’re in a point-and-shoot bubble, people, and the Mju II has Lehmann Brothers written all over it!
Josh’s Pick – Canon AE-1
Sure, the Canon AE-1 might be the most popular 35mm camera in the world and one that’s introduced countless folk to the wonders of film photography. That’s great. But it doesn’t stop me from hating its guts.
Part of my repulsion comes from just how popular it is. Everywhere you go it’s AE-1, AE-1, AE-1. Find a cool camera at the thrift store? It’s probably an AE-1. Googling for the best 35mm camera for beginners? Oh look, it’s the AE-1. Poke the Instagram hashtag for 35mm film? Guess who. Spend long enough doing what we do here at CP and you might understand how we could get tired of this camera.
But all that over-saturation could be forgiven if the AE-1 lived up to its reputation as one of the best inexpensive cameras for beginners, but it doesn’t. Not only is the AE-1 a bad choice for beginners, but for the money the AE-1 commands there are many other, better cameras to choose.
Its choice of shutter priority over aperture priority auto-exposure is just silly. Aperture and depth-of-field are about the most important concepts in artistic photography, concepts novices sometimes find difficult to comprehend. It would make sense for an amateur camera to have an aperture priority auto-exposure mode to teach them these concepts, right? Right. Well Canon decided that wasn’t very important and stuck the AE-1 with shutter priority mode. What’s the difference? Think of it as art versus math, and Canon chose math.
Shooters who wish to practice manual exposure will find no quarter with the AE-1, and that’s because the AE-1’s manual override mode is absolutely dismal. Unlike almost every other camera with a light meter, the AE-1’s light meter display doesn’t tell you whether or not you’re over or underexposing; it only tells you what the recommended aperture is at your chosen shutter speed. No lights, no arrows, no needles, no nothing. Just a solitary black bar telling you that you better be at this aperture value, or else. Or. Else.
It doesn’t help that AE-1s have more issues than National Geographic. Battery doors are always broken, the electronics are fragile, and all of them eventually develop the dreaded Canon squeal that results in half-exposed shots if left unchecked. Every classic camera has quirks, but this one’s fussier than most.
To top it all off, the Canon AE-1 is overpriced. When an inferior camera consistently sells for more than its far superior, better looking, and more capable successor, something’s wrong. And if you look at all of the other cameras available at or below the AE-1’s price point you’ll find cameras much more suitable for beginners who wish to learn and grow with their cameras. There’s the Minolta X-700, XD-11, and XE-7; the Nikon FG, FE, and FM; the Pentax ME Super, MX, K1000, Spotmatic… you get my point. It boggles my mind as to why people choose the AE-1 over all of these great cameras.
I don’t discount the fact that the Canon AE-1 is one of the most important cameras in the history of photography. I don’t even argue the fact that it’s a good camera. But for the love of God, let’s stop putting this thing on a pedestal.
James’ Pick – Every Leica M
Strip away all the nonsense and I like Leica. Don’t get me wrong. They make nice cameras. But the problem is you can’t have Leica without an ample helping of pretentious bullshit. Lenny Kravitz special editions? The 0.95 lifestyle brand? An $845 pen? Come on.
“The Leica is an extension of my eye.”
“It helps me see the world differently.”
Let’s be real. Leica Ms aren’t as amazing as everyone says. Much of their allure comes from the artificially high price point, and many people who buy them after a long time pining are left let down. Sure, they’re heavy. And yeah, they’re made out of brass, or whatever, but that’s not a selling point for normal humans. You know what else is made of brass? Those disgusting brass testicles that overgrown man-babies hang from their repulsive pick-up trucks.
And why do people care if their Leica came from Canada or some probably-fictional town in Germany called Wetzler? Wetzler? Yeah, I’m sure that place doesn’t exist. And if it does, has anyone who’s ever boasted the superiority of Wetzlar-produced Leicas actually been there? I suppose some have – probably house-sat in a castle for some lord, or whatever you call lords in Germany. Meisters, I guess. I don’t know. I’m just a normal person. Even so, I’ve shot every M that takes film and a couple of those fat, digital ones. They’re okay. Just okay.
Personally, I’d pick the CLE. It’s smaller and stealthier than every M, can shoot in aperture-priority mode, and has the best light meter in the classic camera world. Oh, and those Minolta lenses are amazing (and a fifth the cost of Leica glass).
Leica Shmeica, I say. If you’ve got to go German, go Zeiss.
And that concludes Camera Bitch Fest 2017. What a weird post, but hey, they can’t all be winners. Guys. Why’d we write this?
I guess if you reader people hate a particular camera, let us know about it in the comments. Maybe it’ll take some of the heat off of us.