Canon is the only brand of camera I will ever buy.
My first digital camera I got as a birthday present in 2006 was a point-and-shoot Sony. Obviously, I wasn’t taking anything profound on this thing, even if I thought images of my friends at prom were great.
In 2010, I was gifted a Canon 60D as a Christmas present, and this was the camera that really broadened my understanding of photography. That camera lasted me until about 2019, almost a decade. When that camera died, I bought the 5D Mark IV and haven’t given it much thought since. I’ve always said a camera is just a tool. So, why then have I only ever shot on Canon?
The first point is quite literally the system of a camera. I mean, I say camera, but it also means any sort of systems-based product. Anytime you buy an item that works as part of a whole, you are essentially buying into the whole. So, my Canon camera has Canon lenses. Once you add up the bodies and the lenses, the funds start to add up. I absolutely have no issues with my Elinchrom lights. But if I wanted to switch brands, I’d need to buy not just new lights, but also all the modifiers. Most of my editing hardware and software is Windows-based. If I want to switch to an Mac system, I’d need to buy the whole system.
Realistically, you never really buy just an item. You buy into all the things that go with that system. In this way, me being with Canon isn’t just about the camera, but rather all the other things that go with the camera. It’d take something mighty special for me to change systems, to sell what gear I could and recoup some of those funds to buy into a new system.
Like most photographers, I pay my monthly Adobe fees. There really isn’t much of an alternative that would warrant me switching over. Or rather, what would I even switch to? I can’t really work without Photoshop. And I use enough InDesign to pay a little bit extra per month to be on a bigger plan.
But I dropped Lightroom recently. I still pay the fee (there’s no getting out of that). Instead, I use Capture One in my workflow. I bought it outright. It just offers me things that help me work more efficiently. In this case, it’s less about this system or that, but rather finding a solution where the initial outlay of funds can be recouped by working quicker.
However, I’d also argue that due to the way Capture One renders images, I’m not only working quicker, but better. That’s probably a discussion for a different article, though. The point stands that buying into a system is one thing, but if something is inarguably better, there is merit to making the switch.
The Value of Brand
In developmental psychology, there exists a distinction between sensation and perception. The sensation is the raw information of the physical world; for example, we can measure the wavelengths that reflect off an object or we can describe in decibels how loud a given sound is.
Our perception of these raw sensations is the learned knowledge we then ascribe to them: a square object with pigments of various organic and synthetic compounds may be perceived as a picture of flowers. It is not really flowers, but rather specific wavelengths of light sensed with our eyes and compared to a repository of lived experiences perceived in the brain.
In a similar manner, Yuval Harrari, in "The Legend of Peugeot," posits that there exists a collective social agreement for an imagined reality. That is to say, there is a reality that can be sensed, but also an imagined reality, which only exists as a collectively agreed-upon narrative of social customs and beliefs we perceive to be true.
This can be exemplified with economics: certain things have intrinsic value, but other things only have value because of this collective imagined reality. Food, shelter, clothing have intrinsic value: not how much it costs to purchase them, but rather the benefits they provide in way of nutrients, protection, and warmth. In this way, an apple is more nutrient-rich than celery. A cotton shirt provides protection from the sun but is breathable enough to allow temperature regulation, whereas a jacket might be too warm in summer but better protection from cold in the winter.
Money doesn’t have this intrinsic value. The value of money is based solely only on a collectively agreed imagined reality. A 10-dollar bill and a 20-dollar bill are printed on the same paper. In this example, the symbols nor the color on the bill are intrinsically worth more. It is what they are perceived to represent which differs.
What Does All This Have To Do With Photography?
Harrari also touched on this idea of group dynamics. You can reasonably work with a handful of people. You can probably know about 50-100 people by name, but not know them well enough to interact meaningfully with them. Anything beyond this is a bit too much.
To work with larger groups of people, you have to create an imagined reality. Not lies. Not falsehoods. But legends. Things that everyone can believe in and rally behind. Sports teams do this. As do nations. But also corporations and brands. Imagine what the typical Canon or Nikon camera is like. Or what values the typical Canon or Nikon shooter has. How is this different from a Sony/Sony shooter? Leica? Hasselblad?
For some folks, it isn’t just about having bought into a camera system. But also of having rallying behind their brand. There is the real-world tangible entrenchment in a system. You bought one part of a kit and all these other parts that go with it, but there is also an intangible ideology of brand: I use this brand, so this is how everyone else should do it too.