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"DEVOTION TO A MACHINE"



by Scott "Genghis" Wong





Photo by Genghis


DEVOTION TO A SINGULAR MACHINE: My D1x with 20mm f/4 20mm Nikkor.


Last week on a whim, I bought a Fujifilm X100 digital rangefinder. It was a compulsive buy, which I fully recognized. I just had this impulse to buy this camera. Never mind that I've been a lifelong SLR advocate, and that I find my Nikon D1x DSLR just about perfect for the type of street photography that I do: Fast and decisive shooting of people subjects on the street, predominantly from close distances of between three and ten feet. My D1x's ergonomics, portrait grip for vertical frames, the very speed of this Nikon, and the excellent and unobtrusive 20mm pancake Nikkor lens---are tailor-made for my kind of photography. Yet, I went ahead and bought this Fujifilm rangefinder, anyway. I should have used a past experience with my '71 Harley "Mabel" as a cautionary tale with respect to buying this rangefinder.

In the 1990s when I was a columnist for Iron Horse Magazine, I got caught up in the idea of having a second motorcycle as a stablemate for my beloved '71 Harley Super Glide, "Mabel." I'd even gone as far as announcing my plans in my "Going The Distance" column, in which I flatly stated that my second bike would be named "Nadine." Big mistake, man. It wasn't long before I began to have uneasy feelings about having my loyalty to Mabel undercut, and diluted by the presence of an interloping, two-wheeled outsider . I eventually felt disloyal to Mabel, with treasonous thoughts of another bike poisoning my head. I felt like such a heel, like an Anthony Weiner on 'roids and an uncensored Twitter account. No, this wouldn't do. I had to recant the best laid plans of chiseling biker and man. Couldn't do it, man---simple as that. This is sort of the same situation with my Nikon D1x, and the newcomer to the house---the Fujifilm camera---an interloper who covertly horned her way into our home with her strange rangefinder ways. How could this travesty have happened?

Photo by Genghis

SINGULAR LOYALTY TO MY HARLEY: Wouldn't allow another motorcycle.


The end result of this, is that I have very little interest in even opening up the package that the Fujifilm camera sits in. No doubt I will at some point---but the urge isn't there right now. This article isn't about the relative merits of my D1x versus the rangefinder---for I've explored that plenty in previous articles I've written, singing the praises of the D1x body and the one-year only 20mm f/4 Nikkor that Nikon made in 1978---for my brand of fast and close street photography. This article is about my propensity to bond with individual machines. This occurred with my Harley, and has happened with my D1x. This is a peculiarity of my personality, a peculiarity that dictates that individual machines have souls of a sort. This is course, is more demonstrably true with motor vehicles than with cameras---but the principle still holds. I said "demonstrably," but it is awfully hard to explain to anyone who doesn't already possess this knowledge. There is an old biker axiom that states, "If I have to explain, then you wouldn't understand." This in fact, is a very useful platitude which precludes any need for rational explanation. Just take my word for it, okay? Motorvatin' Machines have souls.

It is not only my Harley-Davidson that I've bonded with, as surely as she is a living being and a mechanical member of my family. Look at it this way: She does breathe just like a human, inhaling through her carburetor, and exhaling through her straight pipes. She just happens to be a little bit louder than your average homo sapiens. Hey man, motorcycles are people, too! It is true of my '72 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, "Mary", as well. Only she has eight lungs, instead of the two that I and my V-twin bike have. My bike Mabel and my car Mary, live. There's no doubt. Each has their own signature personalities, moreso than cameras---which explains why I will eventually open unwrap the Fujifilm camera, and use it (maybe). That however, doesn't obviate the intense loyalty that I feel toward Nikon as a brand---which is another factor in my disinterest in the rangefinder. I've always been an extremely loyal person to brands, and this phenomenon began very early in life for me.

Photo by Genghis

MY CHEVY STINGRAY "MARY:" I've been a Chevy man all my life.


I grew up in an era, and in an area of Queens, New York, where there was an intense car culture, when car guys developed a singular and lifelong brand loyalty that is extremely familiar to anyone who has had this same life experience. You be hard-pressed to find a comparable automotive culture and accompanying brand-loyalty in Manhattan, which is only a few short miles from Jackson Heights in Queens, where I was raised. It was in this hotbed of motoring culture in Queens, where I developed my all-encompassing loyalty to Chevies and Harleys.

It was this singular devotion to motoring brands, that led to my lifelong loyalty to Nikons. Think of it as "mission creep." My intense sense of brand allegiance, bled over to cameras. I love my Harleys and my Chevy. I love my Nikons. All of them. Cameras are the only area in my life, where I can comfortably own several cameras---as long as they're Nikons. I in fact,, own three D1Xs---but my hands-on favorite---is the one you see in the picture. I bought my other two D1Xs new, but bought my favorite one used at a fifth of a price of the other two. For the street, I use the used Nikon exclusively. The others sit in reserve, or I may use one with a 55mm Micro-Nikkor to take pictures such as the photo of the used D1x accompanying this article. Even within my brand loyalty to Nikons, I have a singular loyalty and love of one of them. Where does that leave the Fujifilm rangefinder? It may used, but not loved as I love my Nikons. Later.


FINITO