About Cameras and Soul…

Cameras and Soul… what’s wrong with him now? Sou might ask… so I’ll explain directly.

The other day, I saw an interesting YouTube contribution by Sean Tucker, whom I hold in high esteem. It was mainly about how and why to buy (new) cameras and other equipment, such as lenses. Well, actually, it was also mainly about why you shouldn’t do it all the time. At some point he touched on whether cameras have a soul and whether they inspire you or not.

Sean explained in detail there that he can’t really understand this point and doesn’t feel that way. From his point of view, the camera is just a tool, and he would only draw his inspiration from the images or the idea behind them. This is quite an interesting statement for me, and I had to think about it for a while.

Nevertheless, I would like to disagree with him here – so of course not the fact that he sees it that way for himself. That’s more than OK and I can somehow understand that. But I would like to disagree with him that (for some photographers, like myself) it is not so important what they shoot with.

Before I continue, I would like to make clear that Sean Tucker always explains his opinions on subjects in a very respectful, unbiased and witty way. I also have great respect for the fact that he always puts the creative and emotional in the foreground and not the technical. For those who don’t know him that well, I can only recommend watching some of the videos on his channel. Or just read his very inspiring book “The Meaning in the Making”.

Cameras and Soul

Of course, cameras don’t have a soul, but I’m sure you know how that is meant. Nevertheless, we hear this phrase quite often, as well as the statement that one or the other camera “invites” or otherwise “inspires” people to take photographs. In my experience, this is said remarkably often by users of two brands in particular: Leica and Fujifilm.

Where does this come from and what is behind it? Are they just brand fetishists and fanboys (yes, boys… women seem to be far less susceptible to this, but maybe that’s also a prejudice)? Or is this done to excuse – especially in the case of the Leicas – the exorbitant price? Or to create a unique selling point or to throw a special, emotional approach to photography into the room?

Well, maybe it’s a little bit of everything. But at least I see it quite differently. And I hope that I am not blinded by my imagination as to why it might be so.

Every human being is different!

Yes, cameras and lenses are of course first and foremost tools. But like other tools, they can be particularly ergonomic or particularly practical – and they can also be particularly aesthetic or beautiful. Is that important? Yes! At least for me.

Quality matters!

I much prefer to use my great Japanese chef’s knife because it not only cuts super but also feels very nice in the hand. A good and clean-running bicycle is a blessing, as is a perfect saw, a good pan and a pen that fits well in the hand. The touchpad of my MacBook works much better than on any other laptop computer I know.

But that is only the technical-ergonomic part.

Aesthetics also matters!

My bike is fiery red, and I really like its design. I simply love it! And I’m actually someone who also cares about the design of cameras. I love beautiful cameras, and not only because of the purely optical aesthetics.

However, it is something more than pure beauty. It’s more a touch of nostalgia, a little reminiscence of earlier times. Perhaps much younger people don’t (yet) feel this so much because for them, of course, there is no design they can know from much earlier.

But even that doesn’t quite hit the mark, because in my opinion there is also a design that is (almost) timeless. And that is what has soul for me. A tool that was created by people for people. A tool that is pleasing to the eyes, the hands and the soul.

And indeed there are cameras that combine this. Unfortunately, however, there are no longer many of them today. Perhaps the Leica M-series, the Leica Q(3) and also the Fujifilm X-Pro3 and the X100V. If you don’t feel and see that, you don’t feel and see it. However, I feel it and therefore love these cameras with soul!

Will this make me a better photographer? No, not directly at least. But I prefer to pick up these cameras and go out with them. And that in turn has already made me a better photographer.

There is always light somewhere – go out and shoot!


  • I can actually subscribe to every one of your sentences. Some photographers notice the difference and find it important. Some don’t. The pinch of nostalgia simply creates a connection, a memory. In the end that’s what photography is about.
    Thanks for this interesting read, Pete.
    Best regards, Florian

    • Hi Florian,

      thank you for your comment and I already thought that you would see it that way… 😉

      By the way, what makes the decision about the camera for the world trip?


  • Hi Peter, great post! I agree with everything you said. It definitely works the same for me. Some, but not all, of the objects I use have a soul too. In my world, cameras, guitars, motorcycles, watches, among others, have a soul; on the other hand, microwaves and refrigerators don’t (lists not exhaustive). I think it’s a blessing to be able to connect with some objects on that level. It lets us appreciate their quality and the activities we do with them to a greater degree.
    PS: I also watched that video from Sean a few days ago and my thought were exactly like yours then.

    • Hi Diego,

      thanks for your comment and no, microwaves definitely don’t have a soul. Nice one… 😉


  • Yes I agree. There is often no rhyme or reason as to what we prefer – it’s an unwritten, unscripted thing. Example – I was in Singapore about a yr ago and had been looking for a long time for a ‘better’ watch. After days of deliberation I bought a beautiful Swiss automatic watch, that is ‘chronometer’ rated, 600m waterproof, crystal sapphire, the whole nine yards, and cost a fortune. Guess what – I never wear it – I always reach for my fantastic, tried and proven, everyday beater, Casio G-Shock – go figure!! Same with cameras. I shoot paid events, and up until recently had shot all Fuji cameras for the last 11 yrs (X-Pro 1, X100, X100s, X-T1, 2, 3, X-H1) and nearly 10 different Fuji lenses. However, I was only ever 90% satisfied – there was always something missing when I viewed my images that I couldn’t quite quantify. Months ago I sold everything and swapped over to two Nikon Z6ii bodies with the 24-70 2.8 zoom and V1 flash for all my gigs and the 35 1.8 Z lens (on the 2nd body), for my walk-around. Like my watch scenario it doesn’t make sense – the cameras are a bit more clunky (lots of menu diving), they are not as tactile and retro as the Fuji, but just the combination of the feel, quality and unsurpassed images, I’m much happier now when I reach for my Nikons as I rush out the door. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and verbalising what most of us think, but find it hard to put into words.

    • Hi Philip,

      thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. It’s a nice example that it can be the other way round – that what seems pragmatic at first glance can also push the emotional button. By the way: very interesting portfolio… I especially like the pictures in the humanity section…


  • The most valuable and important camera in the world is the one you have with you. Some of my most appreciated images were taken with almost humiliatingly humble equipment (by most standards) with pixel counts etc a fraction of what is considered “the minimum necessary” today. Somehow they still sit at large prints on the wall.

    What is far more important is:
    a) the ability to capture an image you see in your mind
    b) the knowledge to use whatever equipment you have to hand to get the best capture of that image

    I have been fortunate to use pro-level cameras and lenses most of my life. These days (being disabled and unable to handle heavy, billy gear) I use top – end M43 kit.

    Results are the same – as we said in racing circles, it’s the nut behind the wheel that makes the difference … in photo terms it’s the eye behind the lens (especially an eye whose owner has read the manual) that makes the difference.

    The brand, model and type of equipment will always come second to the image you see in your mind.

    My two penn’orth

    • Hi George,

      Thank you for your comment. There’s a lot of truth in it, of course, but for me it doesn’t hit two important points: the fun and the feeling. Of course I can do many things with many tools and it will probably look similar. But I don’t want to… I’d rather do it with something I like. And if I don’t have the camera with me because I don’t like it, then… you understand?


  • I think artfully made tools (I’m referring to look, feel & build quality) inspire us to make better art. However I find myself intimidated to write in my beautifully bound leather journal, reaching for a spiral bound instead! Not the same with woodworking tools – much more inspired to work with beautifully designed & crafted handtools, and well designed machines.

  • Vielen Dank für die guten Gedanken.
    Ja, die beste Kamera ist die, die man dabei hat. [boring]
    Aber ich habe eben genau das gerne dabei, was nicht nur ein Hammer ist um einen Nagel zu versenken.
    Gerne dabei habe ich das Werkzeug, das gut in meiner Hand liegt, das ich gerne verwende weil Form&Funktion passt. Ich bin sehr froh, das Fuji hier meinen Geschmack mit der X100&XPro bedient.
    Danke – vg, oli

    • Hallo Oli,

      vielen Dank für die Blumen! 😉

      Zu Deiner Hammer-Analogie habe ich noch einen, den ein sehr geschätzter Kollege von mir neulich zum Besten gegeben hat: “Wer als Werkzeug nur einen Hammer hat, sieht in jedem Problem einen Nagel.” Passt nicht zu 100%, aber ist auch hier nicht ganz falsch… 🙂

      VG Peter

  • Hallo Peter,

    Nun, vermutlich ist es eine Frage, ob man ein Profi ist oder ein Amateur. Letztere haben mehr Nostalgie in sich, hier geht es um Spaß und Feeling, während der Profi sich nicht (so viel zumindest) darum kümmert. Es geht um das Bild und dem Werkzeug das es dem Profi erlaubt, genau das zu tun.

    Jedem das Seine, beide statements (Tucker und deine) sind richtig. Zu welchem Camp man gehört, ist eine Frage der Einstellung.

    Ich hab’s diverse Male zwischen den camps gewechselt, und die Fotos der Kameras, die kein feeling während des Fotografierens und auch kein Spaß mit der Kamera aufkam, waren die besten Fotos….das war sehr interessant.

    All the best


    • Hallo Ming,

      einverstanden, sehr guter Punkt! Ich möchte zwar etwas bezweifeln, dass Sean Tucker nur Profis damit anspricht, aber der von Dir angeführte Unterschied ist trotzdem sicher sehr entscheidend. Insofern kann ich aber froh sein, kein Profi zu sein… 😉

      VG Peter

  • I agree that certain objects can have souls. I attach or allow myself to feel when using them, but not everyone is sensitive or able to feel and get in the flow.

    I laughed at the idea of a microwave being soulless.
    Cheers from Downunderland

    • Hi Adrian,

      thank you very much for reading… and of course we don’t want to appear arrogant. Maybe someone loves his/her microwave 🙂

      Cheers to Downunder

  • i agree with you and sean if that is possible. technical performance may not be necessary, but perhaps only if the results are good enough… a poor enough technical camera absolutely ruins images for me. otherwise, I’d use an old tiny canon cybershot from 2008. but i don’t.

    equally so, you can have a technical marvel of a camera and lose sight of your craft. perfectly captured brick walls aren’t very good photos… or maybe it’s optically perfect but so heavy you never want to use it…. for me it is a struggle to find the balance in performance and other factors…

    for instance, the x100v is my single favorite camera of all time. but it has a few serious limitations. mainly the focal length. i almost would rather have the panasonic lx100ii with its faster zoom lens. but that has it’s own issues i can’t tolerate (i know, i tried it).

    so I’m torn between using lenses on my xt30 vs. dual wielding my x100v with it. 23mm just isn’t the best for anything except maybe a one lens setup. and even then i feel 18mm might be ideal for me. but the x100v does feel amazing and takes superb photos. my 35 1.4 has magic, sorry, it’s true. i realize it is probably a technically inferior aspect of the lens, but what matters is that the results are always my favorite photos.

    so does a camera or lens need to be perfect? no. but it does need to fit my needs. if the 35 1.4 had worse CA or something i probably wouldn’t like it. but as it is, it does everything right and nothing bad enough to deter the images. maybe i just need the wcl for my x100v, but what the x100v does so well is the size…. i digress…

    • Hi Sean,

      I personally would never give my X100V away – except maybe for a successor. The camera itself has so many unique capabilities and advantages that I couldn’t replace it. However, I also own the WCL-X100 simply because I am the wide-angle photographer.


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