Friday, September 5, 2014

Op-ed: The Freedom of Brand Agnosticism

Note: This post is inspired by the Phoblographer's post regarding their editor's choice of camera. The amount of hate and trolling they received was incredible. Many resorted to name calling and attacks to the writer. You can read their article HERE.

I entered the smart phone world when Apple released the iPhone 3G…crazy, right? For a bit of perspective, it was released on July 11th 2008 (6 years ago). I thought it was the best thing since the Motorola Razr came out because it combined the two things I absolutely needed to get by my community college experience – the Apple iPod and my phone. I knew this was it, this was the company I was going to back. I bought all of their products from their iPads to their computer systems so that I would be completely integrated into the Apple ecosystem. At the time they were revolutionary and my loyalty to the company paid dividends in lightening my load and making my life more efficient. Heck, I even bought things I did not need like the Nanos and the Shuffles (looking back, I think it was all about the status symbol). 

The love story started to go sour when Apple released an operating system update for the 3G, which was in line with the release of the iPhone 4. Foolishly I thought upgrading the OS would improve the functionality of my phone. It didn’t. It slowed every app and made my phone nearly useless. So I did what every rational person did at the time and upgraded to the iPhone4. I was willing to overlook the fact that I was “holding the phone incorrectly” blocking the phone signal, but I couldn’t look over the fact AT&T had an exclusive contract with Apple. I was grandfathered into a plan that gave me unlimited everything. I was a heavy data user and started to get emails and texts from AT&T saying that I was in the top 10% of data users and they were going to throttle my data plan. While not necessarily Apple's fault, that was the tipping point and I left the Apple ecosystem. I promised myself I would not ever place my faith and loyalty to any particular brand or company, instead I go with where the technology is going.

Fast forward to today, I see myself exhibiting fan-boy tendencies to camera companies like Olympus and Sony. Although I think they have the most cutting edge technology TODAY and other companies like Pentax, Canon and Nikon (the latter two more so) are a little behind the competition, I need to keep myself in check. I personally think Olympus is the BEST camera company right now and that Canikon are merely resting on their laurels. That tide can shift at any moment and Canikon can shake things up especially since they have a huge backing of die hard fans. 

I bring this up because I have spoken to so many brand loyal photographers. Many traditional DSLR owners have complained to me about their desire for a lighter load that doesn’t sacrifice too much on image quality. Mind you they’re not trying to shoot sports or birds in flight, they just want something to take on vacation or family outings. In my eyes, they want a mirrorless camera but just can’t convince themselves to buy one. Trust me, budget is not a factor. So what’s holding them back – in my eyes, brand loyalty. Many of my friends decided to settle for just a smaller entry level body and one lens, when I know for a fact they want to take other glass/equipment. Want to know what was in my bag during my last comic con trip: 3 primes, 1 zoom, my E-M1, a flash, a table top tripod and a portable battery pack. This didn’t come close to breaking my back. 

So what’s my point? I believe being loyal to a company/brand is irrational, as companies do not have you in their best interest, period. They have their bottom line as a driving factor. In the grand scheme of things being brand agnostic is so much more freeing. I have no worries selling all of my Olympus gear IF they don’t fit my needs or if they become complacent (I’m looking at you EPL-7 – photographers want a built in range-finder style EVF not a selfie screen). Heck, I might even join the Canon/Nikon family if they come out with something innovative. Fuji X100s even has me intrigued with its leaf shutter, built in ND filter and flash sync speed (in fact that camera might even be my next purchase. Scratch that it will be my next purchase if all goes well during my rental phase). I have gone from an iPhone to a Galaxy S3 and now to a LG G3. Apple can win me back if they ever become the leader in technology and innovation, but their track record leaves me feeling doubtful. Let's hope Canon and Nikon don't follow their lead. 

So say we all,
Dino