Perhaps some of you watched the recent Channel 5 programme ‘How to take stunning photographs’. You may have notice one of the show’s catch phrases ‘your gear doesn’t matter’ or words to that effect. You may have read on other web sites similar statement such as at www.kenrockwell.com especially on THIS page. The question you may ask yourselves is, ‘is it true?’.
Well, the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. As I am naturally not that communicable I’m just going to come to the points in my usual laconic style. Let’s take the ‘yes’ first. Yes! You can take great photos with totally crap cameras, for example look at this site here all taken on the iPhone. No doubt you have all seen great photos taken with pre-war Leica IIs, Holgas, Dianas, FEDs, Zorkis etc. The camera is not the problem, it’s the person behind the camera, now, that IS the problem. And don’t I know that. Beyond doubt, you can take great photos with, what is considered, a crap camera. No doubt at all! Your camera is not the problem. You don’t need to upgrade it. Buying the latest kit is not going to make a blind bit of difference if the person behind the camera is a crap photographer. FULL STOP.
Now, lets deal with the ‘no’ answer. In the aforementioned programme, when it was discussing wedding photography, one of the guests, I am sure, was using a Panasonic Lumix G1. A great camera. No doubt you can come away from a wedding with some great shots. But, no professional in his right mind would want to shoot a complete wedding with one. Why? Well…
1) Mainly because the camera is just too slow, way too slow. Not just in auto-focus speed, but also in frames-per-second and in lens ‘speed’. You’ll miss no end of shots. For a wedding shoot you’ll need a camera with a real fast autofocus, like my EOS 1Ds for example.
2) Then, the small sensor on APS-C and four-thirds cameras have such large depth-of-field that it does often preclude those wonderful pictures with soft out-of-focus backgrounds.
3) Image quality. By this I mean the basic off-the-camera files qualities such as sharpness, resolution, tonality, smoothness and colour rendition. When I compare my 11 megapixel EOS 1Ds with my 10 megapixel EOS 40D, I find the 1Ds is much sharper, with superior resolution and superior colour rendition. Even when I trial the latest semi-pro cameras I find the same thing. I would rather buy a second hand EOS 1Ds for £600 than a brand new EOS 60D for £800. At some point I’ll do a side-by-side comparison, a 60D versus my 1Ds to show you what I mean. 2010 semi-pro cameras are not as good as 2002 professional cameras in terms of sharpness, resolution and, especially colour. No non-professional (I don’t like using the term ‘amateur’) needs more than 10 megapixels. Generally, not much beyond this point your camera will exceed the resolution capacity of your lenses anyway. It’s the colour, tonality and smoothness which does it for me, I think this is the most important factor. The Professional cameras are a big step up in this regard. Don’t believe anything else!
4) The kit lenses are generally rubbish! For serious work they are rubbish! Too slow! They are just plastic low-grade rubbish. Throw it away now! Buy some decent glass! Quality stuff. You know at least Sigma EX grade or Canon L if you can afford it. It WILL make a difference. At least you’ll end up with high quality crap photos, if you see what I mean.
5) Don’t read amateur magazines. These just get you obsessing about megapixels and resolution and all those features that detract from shooting. Amateur magazines just ‘train’ your thinking to think like an amateur. At least buy a few issues of Professional Photographer, this will show you how many professionals think.
6) Buying second hand is probably best. NO! You don’t need 16 bloody megapixels. NO! YOU DON’T! In fact most casual shooters will do with 6. Yes! I said SIX! Six good quality megapixels will do brilliant A3 prints (when viewed at normal viewing distance). Buy a professional 6 – 11 megapixel body such as the EOS 1Ds or the Nikon 1Dx. See, I’ve saved you hundreds of pounds already.
Professionals don’t want you, the non-professional masses to use, or have access to, professional quality kit. Because it will mean more competition for them as it is their living at stake. Why do you think most professionals (including me) use the kit they do? Simple. It delivers the quality and the ‘am’ cams don’t. It’s not just the kit. It’s also the experience, the mind-set, the technique, the tricks etc. Do you think the great Charlie Waite uses an EOS D1000? This does not mean you can’t get professional/quality results from amateur cameras. You can! In many situations your camera doesn’t matter. In certain applications it’s critical.
If you are thinking of upgrading your gear. DON’T! Consider the most important upgrade. YOU! Work at improving your skill and ability, develop your own style, look at things in different ways. If you are unhappy with the body of your work now, upgrading your camera isn’t going to change anything except improve the profits of PenOlymNikCanon.
I have to add a few pics just for fun.