Flings Followup

As expected, I got a lot of feedback from readers regarding their flings. I’m going to use a few of those emails and messages to add some commentary to my Flings article.

  • "Thanks to LensRentals.com (a house of ill-repute, if you like), I've had several flings. The most recent were an Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and a Fuji XT-10, though not both at once. I don't have the stamina for that any more. Although they had attributes that old-faithful (an EOS 60D) lacked, such as being smaller, cuter, less weight, no flapping mirror, etc., they also came with their own set of issues and annoyances: temperamental, expensive, immature -- you know the type.”

Excellent. This is probably exactly how you should have a fling if you’re going to have one: what happens in Cordova, stays in Cordova (LensRentals is in Cordova, TN). 

The problem we all have is “the grass is greener on the other side.” But committing to that side of the fence can be costly, and often we don’t find that we like that new grass at all. The simple answer is what this gentleman did: rent and see just exactly what you’d be getting into. A week with a new digital mistress will tell you all you need to know, I think.

  • "I have had a Nikon 1 fling. I still use a V1 for family events where the pictures will all be looked at on computers, and occasionally for travel where I have very limited time for photography.  I nearly always use the 18.5/1.8 because family events are usually low light and when traveling my photography time is often close of day.  For these purposes the Nikon 1 is truly excellent. I have learned that (1) lots of folk under-rate this system because (IMO) they have it in the wrong niche and (2) I hate the EVF. It is seeing what might be a picture and having to wait while the camera wakes up before you can look through the viewfinder that I dislike, compared to an SLR. One common thread in my flings is low cost: I bought the V1 at a discount just before the V2 came out and all the film gear was bought second-hand and was often absurdly cheap.  I would not have a fling at full retail.”

We’re sensing a theme: many of you realize that a fling could be costly—both monetarily and mentally—so you look for opportunities to minimize costs to justify the fling. 

Also note that flings don’t tend to be “the love of your life.” There seems to always be “I guess I’ll tolerate that” aspect to actual flings. If there isn’t, flings tend to turn into Switching. But I have to wonder: if you relegate your flings to products that are on fire sale at end-of-life, are you picking an ideal fling mate?

At the other end of the scale:

  • "Been shooting Nikon since 2005 and tried Canon twice in the last 5 years, mostly for the superior hardware (lens selection) and ”technical” performance (build/TC/AF performance). Though I never sold all my Nikon gear, I invested over $10,000 in Canon gear each time I “flinged”. Shot the Canon stuff heavily both times for 3-6 months but ended up selling it all and returning exclusively to Nikon. I always loved Canon technology….just but too bad about the sensor performance. You may not think there’s “that” much of a difference between Canon and Nikon sensors, but you’ll never be able to convince me. I’ve come to appreciate IQ over everything else, so I shoot Nikon.”

I won’t get into the validity of the assertions here—everyone has to come to their own conclusions about suitability and usability—but we’re again seeing the “grass is greener” syndrome at work. To a large degree this means that the marketing departments of camera companies are doing their job: loyal users of one mount are falling for claims of superiority in key functions and attributes. Marketing, of course, never tells you about the things you might miss should you hop over the fence for the newer grass. Check for weeds.

As cameras get more and more complex and performance becomes even more nuanced, it becomes more and more difficult to assess whether a switch to B in the bush is better than the A in hand. See the first bullet: rent. 

  • "Had a fling with FX. D800  horrible memories and noisy..D810 love the quiet action but heavy with 28-300  grip and flash flipper. Reduced DOF a problem. May sell the D800 and replace with D7200 and just keep the D810 to use with the 14mm Samyang.

Bet you didn’t think that I’d call out Nikon on trying to get people to Fling within the brand, did you? The 2012-2015 push by Nikon was to try to get more moolah out of their loyal—and mostly DX—customers to upgrade upwards into more costly FX cameras. Quite frankly, I ran into a lot of folk buying D800’s early on who were really way over-buying for their need. 

Just to be clear: the seminal and most likely Nikon DSLR that the majority of people should be considering is the D7200 (and before that the D70, D80, D90, D7000, D7100 models that preceded it). The D7200 is a very well rounded, full featured, and performance capable camera at a reasonable price. You really have to have specific needs to venture beyond that model. Few do.

But frankly, Nikon botched this whole “buy FX” thing they tried. The D600, D750, and D800 all had serious quality problems and frightening (to users) service advisories that required way too many cameras heading back to Nikon repair shops to address (even the D810 had an initial shipment glitch). Many users paid more for something that didn’t live up to the previous quality of Nikon DSLR they had been using. 

So it didn’t surprise me that I received a number of “FX Fling” responses to my article. To some degree, you could add me to that list: I use FX conditionally, not permanently. For a lot of things, I find the top DX bodies—D7200 and D500—more than enough for what I need (see the DX/FX Combo article and my comments about my upcoming wildlife kit).

Personally, I’d rather have the right glass on a slightly less capable body than the wrong glass on the most capable body. Note the 28-300mm in the previous user comment: that’s not at all an optimal lens for a D800/D810. 

  • "My flings are a little less involved.  I haven't played with other brands or other mounts.  Occasionally though, I will scour the archive lists of old, discontinued lenses and then wander ebay to pick up some relic for $50.  None of these lenses have turned out to be hidden gems, but they are still fun to experiment with nonetheless.  The lenses give an interesting glimpse into what photography was like decades ago.”

I loved this response. This reader is trying to keep their gear passion burning, but is loyal to their first love. This is one way to satisfy the quest for “new” gear but not get stuck in the complete replacement problem that happens when you go out of mount. 

A variation on this is just to buy and experiment with a new lens that does something different than your current ones. Macro, PC-E, fast prime, PF/DO all come to mind, but getting something outside the 24-200mm range you probably already have covered could be as interesting to others. DX shooters, try the 10.5mm! FX shooters, try the 24mm PC-E or a Zeiss prime. If you can find one, pick up a 70-180mm Micro-Nikkor, one of my favorite macros of all time.

  • "My fling was with a Minolta XD11.  Aperture preferred, shutter preferred, program, manual! Wow!  But after a few years I realized that I didn't use most of the fancy features and the ones that I did use didn't work as well as they did on a Nikon.  So I sold it and bought a Nikon FE and have been with Nikon ever since.  I've yet to see a good enough reason to dump what I've got and start over. Flings are way too expensive unless you're either making money with your camera (not me) or you've got dollars to burn (also not me)."

Again with the marketing working its wonders on you. You were sold that some new features would make your photographic life magical, then you discovered you didn’t even use those features. 

This is one of the reasons why I often write about “want” versus “need.” Be wary if your buying is directed mostly by “want.” If it’s directed by “need,” no worries; if you need something you currently don’t have then you probably shouldn’t hesitate to acquire it and use it. But when the primary influence on picking up some new gear—especially gear outside your current system—is triggered mostly by “want,” I think you need to do some deeper and better evaluation. 

Here’s what you should really “want”: to take better photos. New and different gear may or may not help you with that. 

  • "I flung with mirrorless for about four years. I wanted something smaller for backcountry skiing, backpacking, etc. Came from a D200 and 17-55mm f/2.8. Used m43 for about a year, liked the size, but being my only personal camera (im a staff photographer/graphic designer, i have many work toys I can use, but didnt want to haul a D800e+lenses on my day off) the sensor size was too small. Moved to Fuji, mainly for the 18-55 2.8-4 lens and APS-C sensor. Used that for two years, first an XE-1, then XT-1. The breaking point came when I wanted to take some tracking shots of one of my ski partners on a deep powder day. The tracking of the XT-1 was horrendous. Before, I had always just prefocused, or tried the continuous mode and got lucky with a keeper or two. But this day it just totally failed due to falling snow. That was the end of it for me. I missed the optical viewfinder a lot more than I thought I would, wanted AF performance that actually worked in a fast moving situation and is capable of tracking. The Fuji was not a transparent tool to me, and really started to get in the way. The lens also needed to be a shade wider and longer to fit what I was looking to capture. After poking around, I tried out the D5500 and 16-85, and for about the same weight as a XT-1+18-135 (the combo I thought about moving too), I have a camera that just works and doesn’t get in my way, doesnt have fussy Adobe processing (still see issues with foliage in my files, even with newest software) the battery lasts seemingly forever, can focus track with reliability, and gives me access to my work lenses if I want.”

Ah, a long term fling that was eventually rejected. 

I see a lot of this lately. To some degree I’m guilty of it myself. I used to use my m43 systems much more than I do today. I probably wouldn’t use them at all if Nikon would simply make the right lenses (buzz buzz) and iron out a few other things in their products (and where’s the equivalent to the Canon SL and pancake lenses?). 

There’s a reason why DSLRs got to where they are today. As complicated as they are inside, they don’t add visual complications at the viewfinder and they perform at state of the art. To really understand that, you need to try a D500 or D5 or 1DxII. The focus performance on these new models is insane when set correctly for the situation, and not close to being matched by the best mirrorless cameras, IMHO. 

Of course, you might not need that focus performance. If you’re mostly taking static shots (e.g. Betty in front of the Eiffel Tower), the mirrorless cameras may actually be better in some respects. Still, there isn’t a do-all, be-all, best-at-all camera system out there. The closest to those tend to be DSLRs, though.

  • "A couple years ago, I spied a swingin' deal on an Olympus µ43 EPM2 body with a 14-42 lens for only a hundred bucks brand new. I asked if it wasn't a misprint, and they said, nope, so I started my fling. I wasn't carrying my camera everywhere and thought an "extra mount" would solve it. I fell in love, and a few months later, sold all the Nikon stuff and got a second Olympus body, OM-D EM-5, and once I learned the menu system (which most dislike and I like just fine), I carry my camera with me everywhere cause it's smaller again! It started as a fling. Ended up being a switch, and I think I won't "go back" unless and until Olympus finally gives up making cameras…"
  • "Being a Thom Hogan fan I have always recommend an entry level DSLR in my beginner teaching blog, but couldn't resist the Christmas deals last year for a X-T10 + 16-50 and 50-230 to take to Alaska in August this year in a tour with 3 other couples (relatives). That I [also] changed [to this] for [a trip to] India is a fling that has set me firmly on the Fujifilm path permanently, my D700 + 24-70 is sooo heavy, one camera instead of two with variable focal length lenses doesn't effect my non-pixel peeping results.  The Fuji operation is so close to my Nikon I can move comfortably from one to the other, I am really enjoying myself, and began purchasing additional lenses. But is this a fling with Fuji or was the original fling with Nikon all along?  I was a Nikon film camera consumer but entered digital with a Fuji S2 Pro subsequently followed up with a S5 Pro - still in operation with one of my daughter-in-laws, I later acquired a Fuji X100.  I really liked the S5 Pro, yes the D700 is better but nostalgia for the experience remained, satisfied with Fuji X-Trans.

Yes, sometimes Flings turn into Switchers. That’s really difficult to figure out in advance, though. Which is why that first suggestion back up at the top of the article makes a lot of sense to me: rent and evaluate. If you just jump in with both feet, you may be jumping back out, minus a healthy chunk of your wallet.

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