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Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Lesson Learned About the Intensity of Camera Enthusiasts

Anyone who writes about technology has suffered the ire of Apple, Microsoft and Amazon fans, all coming to the defense of their favorite technology companies. Sometimes, these readers can say some pretty mean things to writers and other people who comment on stories; all, strangely, in defense of a corporation.

But as I learned this week, compared to the photography community, technology fans seem tamer than a sloth.

In a Tool Kit article published on Thursday, I wrote about Leica's digital cameras, where I noted that hard-core Leica owners “swear by its craftsmanship, lens quality and lack of bells and whistles.”

Within hours of the piece being published online, my in-box filled with vehement messages from all kinds of photographers and camera fans. They took to Twitter and Facebook, too.

The Canon faithful attacked me for not writing a similar profile on Canon cameras, which, they noted that in their opinion are the only camera worth buying. The Nikon owners denounced Leica, calling it a waste. There were even film-camera enthusiasts who came to the defense of film. But none of the comments were more vehement than those of the Leica owners.

Leica owners picked through every detail of the article, many sending long e-mails to complain that the experts I quoted in the article were not really “experts” at all, and that they, the people sending me e-mails and leaving comments, knew more about Leica cameras.

One polite reader, Jack B. Siegel, pointed me to a Leica forum where the article I wrote was on the equivalent of a digital dartboard. When I asked Mr. Siegel, an attorney and photographer, if this was normal, he said that camera owners can be ruthless, even more so than the techies.

“I am endlessly astonished about the rigid and hostile views and arguments over nothing,” he said to me in an e-mail about the photography forums he visits. Mr. Siegel, who is currently writing a book on photography law, noted that photo Web sites have to go to great lengths to stave off angry comments and have a positive discussion.

It turns out he's right. Passions can rise so high on many of the serious camera Web sites that reviews even come with warnings and disclaimers to readers.

“Basically, I am not interested in comments from those who just want to comment for negativity,” wrote Steve Huff, a photographer and camera reviewer, before he began a lengthy and detailed review of a new Leica camera.

“If you start posting hateful comments that attack me or anyone else here you will be deleted, plain and simple,” Mr. Huff added. “I have a low tolerance for hate, bitterness, jealousy or idiotic comments from people who have no clue what the facts are.”