the best camera is the one you love

The best camera is the one you love

I’ve always been asked what the best camera is, where here I will answer that question in a more philosophical way instead of singling out certain cameras

There is no such thing as the best camera
Let’s start by being controversial. I don’t think there is such thing as the best camera. I’ve owned many cameras and I continue to review cameras for this site. If there is something I’ve learned it’s that the best camera doesn’t exist.
When someone asks me for recommendations, my answer will differ depending on the person and their needs. Sometimes I say go for the Fuji X100s, sometimes for the Alpha 6000 or sometimes something else. There is not a one size fits all camera. I remember when I was raving about my Ricoh GRD IV, while most people were happy with their purchase, a few peeps didn’t like it at all and didn’t get what all the rage was about.


The thing is, cameras are like partners. If you have a boyfriend/girfriend, they might be the perfect fit for you, but for somebody else, not so much. This is the same for cameras, some cameras might fit you, others might not.

I once asked what the best film camera was. While there are a few names that pop up here and there, many people chose cameras that I would never chose. This is to show there IS such a thing as the best camera for YOU. It’s all about finding the camera you love.


Finding the camera you love
So, how does one recognize “the one”? If you haven’t got it yet, rent as many cameras as you can to figure out which one is the one you love most. It could also be a past camera. If you always think about a certain camera you had, maybe it’s that one. I remember when I sold my GRD III, I couldn’t live without it and I think within the week I got another one.

As for the present, the one you love is the one you miss when you don’t shoot out with it, the one you trust the most to make your images, the one that leaves the other ones in the dust. At one point in time I had 4 Ricoh GXRs. And then one day I bought their “little brother” home, the Ricoh GRD. From then on they have been gathering dust. It was evudent I found THE camera and I sold them all after months of not using them.


Specifications schmecifications
The one thing I have found when trying to hunt down your best camera it’s that comparing specifications bears no indication on wether or not you will enjoy a camera.

There’s a certain minimum that you might require for sure (at least a large sensor for example) but whatever the case, it doesn’t mean that you will enjoy using it. The Fuji Xpro was, on paper, my dream camera, in practice I didn’t like using it, it’s too big. But for other it’s the best camera ever.

My Ricoh GRD IV is outclassed by any new modern camera that comes out but I preffer my GRD IV. It’s weird but it’s not about the specifications really, it’s about the camera itself. I had a NEX7 and a Fuji XE1, the first kicks the second one’s butt but I preffer the XE1. So getting the better speced camera has no bearing on whether you will love it or not. Let’s look at some benefits of actually finding “the one”.


Removing the middle man
There is nothing more liberating than finding the camera you love. There’s only one thing that stands between you and the image you have in your mind: The camera. By finding your best camera, you will use it more and more and surely enough you will know it like the back of your hands.

Doing so will allow the camera to move out of the way and free you to make pictures like you intend to. Take my Ricoh GRD for example once again, if I look at the screen and see if it’s underexposed, I know how many “clicks” I need to push the back lever to the left to adjust my aperture. When I have this camera, I don’t even see in terms of fstops any more, only how much or how little clicks or wheel turning I need.


The cure to spending too much in gear
I used to be a gear addict. Spent 1000s of $$$ in cameras. Looking back, I should have invested that money in a mutual fund or something. But let’s not go there. I use to buy new cameras as I sold old ones over and over again, and it’s my experience that if you find the camera you love, you will not have the temptation to buy other cameras.

Let’s take my Ricoh GRD, it’s been with me for 4 years. I’m still shooting with it daily. I believed it was on it’s last leg but looks like it’s still has a few years or two. Sometimes it can’t turn on tough but that’s besides the point. I don’t mind only using this camera for life.

It will make you a better photographer
A camera can and can’t make you a better photographer. Let me explain. A camera, on a specification level cannot make you a better photographer, it can only allow you to do new things that you couldn’t before. For example if you have a new camera with a macro feature, it just opened up the macro world to you.

But in a more real world perspective, a camera can make you better. Or for more clarification, a camera can make you WANT to be better. Once you have the camera you love, you will want to use it. Use it more and you will become better.

It’s not really the camera that makes you better, it’s that you get better the more and more you use it. I would not be the photographer I am today without having made the jump to compacts. Why? Because I had a Pentax K20D, one of the best cameras I used, but the problem was that it was BULKY.


I never wanted to go out and shoot with it. Even when I was home I never wanted to pull it out, just doing so felt like work. All of this changed when I got my Ricoh GXR, it’s like the world opened up to me and I really WANTED to shoot everything. And I did. And I got better. MUCH better.

There is nothing my GXR could do that my K20D couldn’t do. The difference was that I wanted to use on of them and not the other. That’s why, even if I don’t have a problem with DSLRs I preach for everyone to have a compact.

You’ll take it everywhere
Chase Jarvis popularized the quote “The best camera is the one that’s whit you”. And to a large extent I agree, but I think the underlying principle is still the best camera is the one you love. Simply put you will use what you love and love what you use. I tried that mobile photography thing, the phone being the camera that’s always with you, and it just didn’t work.

I hate using my phone as a camera. Fidling with a screen to interact with the image is not my thing. But again for others it’s the best thing ever. I think the limits of what Chase said comes from the fact that you will probably not want to use something you don’t like.


I’ve let many images pass just because I didn’t want to pull out what I had in my pocket or bag. Alternatively I got many images because the camera I love is always in front of me. My wife got angry at me because “I didn’t take pictures of her of the kids” and it was true, but it was because I REALLY didn’t want to take my camera sling bag everywhere I went and pull out my large DSLR for some family images. When I got my pocket camera, I got the nickname Paparazzi. You’ll take the camera you love everywhere. If you like it enough you’ll probably start wearing Baggy pants just to slip it in your pocket.

A positive circle 

Like I said above, the camera you love will make you love what you use and use what you love. It will alternate between the pleasure of using a camera you like, making some killer images with it, making you liking it more, and what to shoot it more. It’s feeding positive energy into your photography.

Photography is about relationships, the relationship between you and your images, but also your relationship with your camera. If you can one that you love, it will liberate your photography, not only you will want to take it everywhere, you will also get better as a consequence. My photography took a serious turn when I found mine. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

What about you? Did you find the camera you love? If so, what is it?

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30 thoughts on “The best camera is the one you love”

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more Olivier. I am so attached to my Fuji X100, even though I have an X-E2 and snazzy X-series lenses. I don’t leave the house without my X100….it’s traveled overseas, been wet, dropped in volcanic ash, dented and scratched. I love it and wouldn’t consider upgrading it or leaving it on the shelf.

  2. When I was 10 my perfect camera was the Kodak Box Brownie my father gave me. He was using a Speed Graphic and a Leica at the time – 1950 – and later went to a Yashica twin lens reflex. All now sadly gone – including Dad. I’m using a Canon Power Shot A620 as it’s the only one I can afford, but it’s enabled me to do architectural, street, and portraiture (for a local radio station).
    Perfect? Well, for me it is!

  3. I have, owned and used so many cameras in my life. I currently own a Canon 5D MKIII, Olympus OMD-1, Fuji X-pro 1, Fuji XT1, Fuji x100S, a bunch of lenses and a Ricoh GR V(also an iPhone 6 plus). I have to say that I use the Ricoh GR V most of the time for my all around camera when I leave the house. It’s not perfect but it is small, stealthy and has pretty good image quality in most situations . I love using this camera!

  4. Very thoughtful article. And its cleared up for me why the Chase Jarvis quote never quite rings true for me: I just really don’t like taking shots with my phone even though it takes good ones. I like to have my hands “around” a camera and my Nikon D7100 gives me that feeling at present. Yes, its a bit bulky, but for me that is outweighed by what Olivier is saying: I love using it. Thanks for this piece.

  5. Totally agree. Just “upgraded” to Sony A6000 from the nex 5N and it just doesn’t work for me. Simply like the pictures better from the nex.

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  7. Your article really resonates with me, I recently went over my photos on a back up drive from a few years back all taken with a Nikon D 80 and it was full of photos that I thought were better than what I produced later on a camera with much better specs. It was simply that I loved my that camera and took it everywhere. I needed up not taking photos for several years with my upgraded camera, I have recently sold up my Nikon gear and gone for an olympus system, em1 and an epl5, out of the two I am shooting so much more with the epl5 and a 17mm pancake lens and loving it, both cameras are great and I have again fallen for the photography muse….

  8. So true, what you’re writing. I do have the Ricoh GR Digital and the GR V now. Whenever I leave the house, I grab my keys and one of both GRs. Really love taking pictures with the GR.

    I also do own a Nikon D300, which seems to be outdated, as they say. I don’t care. I bought flashes and started flashphotography with this camera – amazing. So I use my DSLR at home or whenever I want to take pictures of my dog.

    But for everyday, my GR is with me. And still so much to learn.

    Thanks Olivier!

    Oliver 2.0

  9. Great article! I find myself being sucked in by newer models, but in the end I prefer the look and feel of my “outdated” camera. The new model might have more bells and whistles, but I make better pictures with the camera I know and love.

  10. Brilliant post Olivier and I very much like your image of the GR at the top. Mine isn’t that banged up but the shutter button is sticking at times… so, I bought another.

    Some cameras have some magic about them when coupled with particular people. The Ricoh GR, while far from perfect, has that for me.

    I have a Sony R100 III and it’s a fine little camera but no magic there for me. I have a Fuji X100T and it too is a fantastic camera, but no magic for me. I’ve taken fine pictures with both and I will keep them but the GR is in a different category for me.

    I had a “magic” relationship with the original Canon 5D and a few decent lenses but got tired of lugging it all around a while back and started looking. I’m glad I did and I’ve never looked back.

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  14. Great post Olivier! I’m shooting with a X100T myself and really feeling the magic. However sometimes I feel the need of a wider angle especially for architecture shootings. So I’m looking for a second camera to quickly switch between the two. Do you think the GR wil do or should go for the XT1?

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  17. richard warren

    Over the years, I well over a dozen different cams, of all sizes & descriptions, and currently have three (a compact, a half-frame and full frame). Although I have specific reasons for all three and they don’t all serve the same function, my favorite is the Nikon D7200 half frame, with its 18-140mm kit zoom – easy to use & takes excellent shots. It can’t substitute for the other 2, they have their own roles, but it’s a great camera.

  18. Hello,

    your article confirms my own experience.

    I bought a Panasonic GH4 two years ago to develop my video activity and used it also as my photo camera (yes I know, full frame are better, but I’ve never been into it).

    One year ago I looked for a second camera to have a second shooting angle, and didn’t want to put so much money than into the GH4, as Panasonic issued a number of very good lighter items.

    Among them I chose the G7, which is indeed like a little brother (or sister) to the GH4.

    Finally, I always have the G7 with me, because it’s lighter and smaller, I don’t have the feeling of “working” as you wrote. And besides I can put on it all the good lenses I have for the GH4…Do I like the G7 more? Maybe!!

    Cheers 🙂

  19. I like the camera, but the problem is… it is Leica M4-2. It was in service, waiting for parts for almost one year out of four in total I have it and it need another major re-haul with expensive parts. We have no service left where I’m, so it adds on waiting time and cost of shipping.
    I translated to Russian two articles about Winogrand as teacher. Under permission of Winogrand’s ex-students (authors). From their articles I learned how Winogrand has to change and repair his Leicas. These days it is much more difficult and takes much longer time.
    All I could do to follow “use camera you love” is to buy (again) another Leica and keep on sending one of them for service which costs $$$.

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