IT’S NOT THE CAMERA…IT’S YOU.
(a republication from the original post from November 1, 2009 – as it is as relevant today as it was then)
This topic has been beaten to death over the years, but with the prevalence of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and LBA (lens buying addiction), I feel it necessary to refresh this concept once again. Let’s skip straight to the bottom line, after that I’ll explain a little more.
The photographer creates the image by capturing the moment with a chosen tool (photography gear). The camera cannot do anything on its own. Give a good photographer a mediocre camera and he’ll create a great image. Give a sub-par picture taker a professional level DSLR and high end glass and they’ll end up with uninspired run of the mill snap shots…no better or worse than their 5 year old point and shoot model. Know thy tools and skills.
Why is this? For the same reason you could place the world’s finest violin in my hands and it would still sound just as bad as if I were on a cheap beginner’s model. The violin makes no difference. So why is it different with cameras? Simply because they have become so automated that a novice can create nice images without much effort or forethought as to the creation of the image. But that’s as far as technology can take it. It cannot replace the artistic vision of a photographer anymore than it can replace the artistry of a professional musician.
I’ll be the first to admit, I can be a bit of a gear head when it comes to cameras and lenses. It takes a conscious effort to remind myself that it’s not the camera, rather it’s me creating the image. I was reminded of this fact while browsing some of my old images. Take a look at the image below and ask yourself what camera was this taken with? How many megapixels does it have? What kind of lens was used (kit, prosumer or professional), what filters were used, was it an HDR images? Hint, this image has been printed numerous times at various poster sizes, the best print size turned out to be 16×24”.
Here are several 100% crops of the above image
1) Canon 20D (8MP), Canon 17-40 f/4 L
2) Nikon D50 (6MP), Sigma 18-125 f/3.5-5.6
3) Olympus E-3 (10MP), Zuiko 14-54 f/2.8-3.5
4) Canon D30 (3.3MP), Sigma 28-135 f/3.5-5.6
5) Nikon D40 (6MP), Nikkor 18-55 f/2.5-5.6
The answer? This was taken with the 3.3MP camera, a Canon D30 on 1/3/2003. No filters and no HDR processing. The only processing was in Aperture with some level and light sharpening. Here is the EXIF as taken from Apple’s Aperture.
Not only was that taken with a 3.3MP DSLR, but it was taken with a really cheap budget lens. That Sigma 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 retailed for about $135 new. What doest this “prove”? For one, you don’t need the latest and greatest to capture a great image. Sometimes budget glass can actually get the job done. Oh, and pixels don’t really matter – as long as they are “good” pixels.
The next time you feel the need to drop $3,000 or more on a full framed DSLR body and $1000 to capture an image like this on vacation – check your gear ego at the door. The scary thing is that this image could have just as easily been created on my point and shoot Canon G9.
Are there times when higher end gear is justified for an causal shooter or enthusiast photographer? Sure, of course there are times that a point and shoot or a 7 year old DSLR just won’t cut it. Just remember that they are tools and you choose your tools based on the job to do and the way you want to do it – and you don’t have to break the bank.
The next time you read a press release about latest and greatest DSLR or super fast lens, just stop for a minute and think if you really NEED the new _____________. My guess is you don’t need it, you just want it. After that, go ask your bank account how it feels about the new gear. The key is finding that happy median for each of us. That sweet spot where we aren’t over our heads but not held back by the gear. That point will be different for each of us. Now go out and shoot!