I often get accused of writing click bait titles. I’m really not sure what people think the purpose of an article title is if it’s not designed to get people to read it, but nonetheless, I must admit, the title of this article is designed entirely as bait.
It’s designed to bait the sort of people who would comment on another article about a Leica M6 on this very website with the words “If you guys can’t [sic] know that a Spotmatic f with a super takumar lens is better than any Leica , you don’t know shit !”
You see, I want to address this nonsense to anyone who thinks like that head on. It’s not that I want to prove that a Leica is better than Pentax Spotmatic – I wouldn’t dream of starting such a pointless argument. Quite the opposite in fact, I actually want to make a point that’s somewhat the opposite to my own baity title. I want to make the point that Frank’s Spotmatic F is indeed better than a Leica M6. To him.
A useless comment
Let me just start by pointing out that the sort of commentary that Frank shared on Nigel’s post is completely redundant. That is to say, it holds no value at all. He doesn’t qualify his statement, and of course it’s the sort of comment that’s entirely based on an opinion.
But, beyond it’s absolute redundancy – and the fact that it’s more than a little rude to assume that Nigel and all the other commentators on that post “don’t know shit” – it’s also almost-blind myopic. In short, it’s a useless comment – well, at least apart from the fact that it’s given me something to rant and rave about!
It’s all subjective
The fact is, when it comes to cameras and their use, everything beyond basic stats is entirely subjective. And anything that’s subjective is obviously completely personal to the individual. Our personal experiences with cameras, from the moment we pick up our first, to the last time we pressed a shutter button help define what makes the right camera for us as individual photographers.
In fact, our choice of camera, and the narrative we create for ourselves around that choice, isn’t even exclusively defined by specifically photographic experiences. As human beings we naturally create our own narratives as we meander through life. We form beliefs and ideas about everything we interact with based on every other experience we have in life. As such, what makes a camera the right camera for an individual photographer can just as easily be defined by personal attitudes toward material objects, financial situation or physical ability, as much is it can creative goals or shooting styles etc.
One man’s trash…
The cliche “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” holds a lot of truth, and is especially relevant in the world of photography. To some people a basic point & shoot film camera is all they need, in fact it might even be all they want, or even all they can afford. But to others, such a camera might fall short for technical reasons, or even just not give them the satisfaction they want from their shooting. Some might find the use of a point & shoot brings satisfaction through them being able to create their art with something so simple that cost so little, whilst others might find the limitations of such gear means they feel detached from the process by not being able to have full control over the camera’s settings. Are either of these people wrong? Of course not, these things are personal preferences that have been formed by any number of potential experiences and variables.
Of course, the difference between a point & shoot and a full manual camera is quite significant. The difference between a Leica M6 and Pentax Spotmatic F is less so. In fact, if you compared a Spotmatic F with its TTL metering and 1/1000th maximum shutter speed, the only really significant thing that separates it from a Leica M6 with its TTL metering and 1/1000th maximum shutter speed is the type of camera they are. SLR vs Rangefinder. And as any photographer worth their salt will tell you, the answer to that question is once again entirely subjective.
So maybe my new mate Frank is comparing mechanical reliability? You only need to spend a little bit of time on google to find just as many people who rave about the mechanical quality of either of these cameras as there are people who complain about the opposite. Even if you stripped down a Leica M6 next to a Spotmatic F and asked a group of engineering experts to comment on the quality of the components, I’d bet a lot of money there wouldn’t be unanimous agreement – likely due to all of the varying experiences said group of engineering experts have. Obviously, this is pure speculation, I’m not aware that this specific comparison has ever been made, but if two mechanical objects that are still working perfectly after the sort of years-of-use we are talking about here, it’s fairly safe to assume they were both made to pretty good standards.
So maybe he’s talking about optical quality. A Super Takumar lens vs. (in this case) a Voigtlander. Objectively, I suppose by some measures a comparable Super Tak might well be better than this specific Voigtlander. The Voigtlander in question is known in some circles as not being their finest hour (though personally I share Nigel’s opinion that it’s a cracking bit of glass). But it’s not exactly comparing apples with apples. And besides, he doesn’t mention the lens specifically so he must therefore be claiming that all Super Tak lenses are better than any lens made for Leica M-Mount cameras. That’s a fairly broad stretch objectively speaking, I’d say. But, as soon as it becomes a subjective statement its integrity entirely falls apart. As I talk about in my post about what defines a perfect lens, any lens can be right for the job if it suits the creative goals of the individual phoyotgrapher. In short, when talking subjectively about optics, “better” is a highly flimsy concept.
Don’t be like Frank
So what is Frank talking about? Well of course, like a considerable volume of keyboard-wielding internet-cranks, he’s mistaking his personal preferences for objective facts. He’s taking all of his beliefs about what makes a good camera and lens, and packaging them up into a bundle of irrefutable facts. And in doing so, he’s convincing himself that not only is he right about what he believes, but also that everyone else who doesn’t believe what he believes “don’t know shit”.
So what am I saying; that Frank is wrong…? Of course not, to Frank the Spotmatic F and some Super Takumar lens-of-his-choice probably is the best thing since sliced bread, and for his needs it likely does trounce anything and everything Leica have and will create. I can completely accept that he thinks that, and would never dream of trying to convince him otherwise.
So why, I wonder, does he feel the need to express his views so fervently? Well, your guess is as good as mine – there really is any number of variables and life experiences that can result in an individual becoming so self-assured and blinkered as it seems Frank has become.
But, well, good luck to him I say… I’ve got no real beef with him, and I can’t imagine that Nigel would have been offended by the comment either… Though, if you want my advice – and quite genuinely I don’t mind if you take it or not – I’d suggest you don’t listen people like Frank! His opinion might be as valid as the next man’s, but to be Frank for a second, his apparent attitude and approach to sharing it really sucks!
Thanks to Neil T for letting me use half of his picture of his Pentax Spotmatic F