What Makes a Professional Camera Exactly That - Pseudo-Rant?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by newmurph, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. So recently I just upgraded from a Nikon D40X to a Nikon D5100 and I am pretty happy, considering the D5100 does everything the D40X does and does it better, as well as the fact that it is VASTLY more customizable and has abilities the D40X simply does not. Back in 2007, when the D40X came out, it was called an "entry-level" DSLR, so when I got it in 2010, that was perfectly fine with me, as I was entering the world of DSLRs. Obviously I grew out of it as I got the D5100. Now, when I received the D5100 I was blown away with it's technology, it being vastly more complex and capable than the D40X. EVEN STILL, it is considered "entry-level" just like the D40X.
    I simply do not understand this categorization.
    What makes a camera professional grade? Its like they say"OH, you bought this $3000 camera, that automatically makes you a pro even though you only use auto!" Or, "You bought an entry-level camera, you will never be able to play with the big boys."

    What makes a camera professional grade? I have been checking them out and it seems like the major difference is that these "pro" cameras, like the D4, are more capable when it comes to layout and not necessarily image quality. Using my upgrade as an example, its like the D5100 is 2x better than my D40X, for $600, and the D4 5x better for $6000. The D4's abilities to me do NOT seem like they are worth $6000. Not even close. Its image quality might be twice as good as the D5100, but its price 10x more. The D4 and cameras like it have capabilities that to me, are useless, like its ungodly amount of focus points. I only see the need for one. Even the D40X's three annoyed me. I focus on the object, and move the camera around . It is quicker than finding one of the 11 or 30 different points and going from there. 11 FPS seems like cheating, unless you are shooting a cheetah.
    Now, to be honest, I see the usefulness of something like a D4, but for me, someone who wants to make "art" or whatever you want to call it, or rather someone who isn't working for MSNBC shooting the Olympics or out in the Amazon with National Geographic, I just don't see the point in buying a D4 or something like it, especially since I've never had $6000 just sitting there. Even if I did, I wouldn't spend it all at once. For crying out loud, I don't even have a car, and a used one would less than half as much as a D4.
    If I had a photography job, and keeping that job depended on getting something like a D4, then yea, I would get it. However, as it stands now, I am not working for NatGeo, I not out shooting cheetahs, and I would buy a car before buying what some people in the photography world call "professional grade" equipment. Someone smack some sense into me. Am I being naive here? Can I not have a lucrative business, or amazing photos, or any amount of respect, just because I am using the $600 camera and not the camera that costs 10 times more? Are my abilities as a photographer and level of respect I can achieve things that are dictated solely by my pay grade? As someone on this forum once said, and this is not an exact quote, "Ansel Adams took amazing, timeless photos with a camera made of wood and cloth, and we are bickering over the latest DSLR."
    I find this all so absurd and belittling. Like I said before, someone smack some sense into me.
     
  2. A professional NEEDS a camera they can depend on to work when they need it (all the time). Pro cameras are designed to survive rough treatment, and conditions. Amateurs WANT features (real or perceived) and ease of use.
     
  3. Yea, but some of these "pro" cameras have things nobody needs, like 30+ focal points. Nobody NEEDS that many. They only need one. Plus, what if someone has everything they need with something like a D5100? The industry seems to think they are still "entry level" and that someone with a D4 is a better. You make a good point with the environmental conditions though.
    My main point here is that people make it seem like having a pro camera makes a photographer a pro. Joe Schmoe could climb Mt.Everest with a weather sealed D4, but that doesn't mean we will take quality photos. Certainly it is a feat to climb Mt.Everest and make a photo project out of it, but that is more like extreme sports than photography.
     
  4. Gup

    Gup Gup

    Matt, pro cameras are about build quality as much as image quality. Lesser priced bodies share much of the componentry sometimes but would be a liability in a war zone or extreme situation where 'failure is not an option'. My advice to you to answer all your questions would be to rent a D4 for a few days and experience it then get back to us.
     
  5. "Pro cameras are designed to survive rough treatment, and conditions."

    Even this differentiation is becoming obscured over time. My prosumer EOS 7D has a shutter rated at 150K actuations, a magnesium-alloy chassis, weather/dust sealing that while inferior to the 1D series is a lot better than my old EOS-1/1N professional film bodies. The body is every bit as rugged and the shutter's more durable.

    Of course, compared to the true consumer Rebel series, the build quality of the prosumer/pro bodies is much, much better. But even the true consumer bodies are getting better.
     
  6. Pro cameras are built tougher. It is not a matter of features. You can have a completely manual pro camera or an entry level camera with all the bells and whistles manufacturers can come up with. The shutters on pro cameras are designed to last longer. The bodies are tighter and have better seals. The lens mounts are stronger with pro cameras.
     
  7. The 30+ focus points were actually developed from the non-pro cameras. But action photographers can definitely use them. A single focus point is great if the photographer can recompose, but fast moving subject matter can make this impossible. You can take the focus point argument even further. When I was a photojournalist, we didn't have autofocus and did a good job with manual focus. This implies that autofocus isn't needed.
    I think what confuses you is the issue of "quality". All DSLRs can take quality photos. Some can do it at higher ISO and some have higher megapixels. Professional cameras are not professional cameras because of this. Canon and Nikon's top of the line cameras don't have the highest megapixel capture. It is the cameras just below them that do. The pro cameras have a high enough megapixel with very fast processing, and durable construction.
    This hasn't changed since film days. My Nikon F2s didn't take a better photo than an FM or FE, but I could depend on them in conditions that caused an FE to short out (ultra high humidity) or that they would last many more shutter actuations than the amateur cameras
     
  8. Ok, ok, good responses. What I am getting from this is that it is like driving a car. I could have a fuel efficient, luxury vehicle that makes driving a nice, leisurely, relaxing experience, and it could get me from A to B just like any car, but god help me if there is a blizzard or if I want to go off-roading, even if I am the best driver in the world.
    It is the camera's ability to endure in harsh environment and usage that makes it "pro?" I can still take "pro" quality photos with a more fragile camera?
    Am I getting it?
    What would the D5100 be classified as if it came out 7 years ago? Surely it would not be just an entry level DSLR...
     
  9. What makes a camera professional grade? Its like they say"OH, you bought this $3000 camera, that automatically makes you a pro even though you only use auto!" Or, "You bought an entry-level camera, you will never be able to play with the big boys."​
    The words 'professional', 'entry level' and the ridiculous 'prosumer' are simply adjectives and categories made up by corporations in order to target customers and sell cameras, I wouldn't take any of it too much to heart.
     
  10. At any given time, there are price levels X and X+n, such that any camera whose price is ≥X and < X+n is a "prosumer camera". Any camera priced ≥ X+n is a "professional" camera.
    "Features" are not involved in this determination to any significant degree. On any given Saturday night, an "entry level camera" [<X] may have new features not present on more expensive models.
     
  11. SCL

    SCL

    The "designations" reflect the audience the camera is designed to attract, and inherently include the camera's durability to consistently deliver within a range of specifications, often as a function of higher grade components in "pro" bodies than in lesser grade cameras. It has very little to do with the IQ of the resultant pictures. And, No, a professional grade camera won't make you any more of a professional photographer, than a cookbook will make you a chef. Both are just tools. What is between your ears is what makes the difference in which tools you select and how you employ them.
     
  12. There are NO "pro" or "prosumer" cameras. Most folks have been conned. I know people who have made a very good living from an alleged "student" camera, the Pentax K-1000 and the Olympus Pen F, half frame. I made more money from my cheapo Yashicamat than I ever did from my Rolleiflex, more money from an ancient Nikon F than I ever did from my Leica M2R. I am currently producing gallery-size prints for sale from my Nikon of the Beatles. The lens was a cheapo Spiratone present 105mm f2.5 lens.
    Some cameras, of course, fare better in Hurricane Sandy but most photogs don't have that problem. Nobody cares a fig what kind of typewriter Hemingway wrote his stories on.
    When I was a big time photog in Neuva Jork and Hollyweird (presidential visits, all major league sports, Broadway backstage, Academy Awards ceremonies, the Olympics, etc.) I can't tell you how many of the big time pros carried grubby looking cameras (they are a tool not a fashion statement) while the wannabees had shiny new toys around their necks. Get over it.
     
  13. Build quality, ruggedness, reliability. Nikon D4 is a rugged well made DSLR that will stand up to the rigors of heavy use. You could say everything else in Nikons current line up is not so well made. That does not mean you can't make money using another camera body such as a D3200 but there is no arguing which one is better made.
     
  14. Being used by a professional photographer.
     
  15. You can certainly doing professional work with your D5100 and many D3, D4 were sold to amateurs so it's not clear as to which is a professional camera and what is not. With that said, without even know the specs just by looking at them I could easily tell that the D5100 is priced approximately 1/10 of the D4. And if the D5100 was introduced 10 years ago it's still and entry level because of how it is built.
    If you get back to the good old film days you would see that the top of the line cameras had the least amount of features like auto exposure etc.. but high speed motor drive was always the features on the high end. I don't see the point in trying to explain to you the reason, you bought the entry level and happy with them. That's good and that's why each manufacturers have so many models.
     
  16. It's just a camera that a professional decides to use. They choose all sorts of models and types that suit their particular needs.
     
  17. A professional camera is a camera that's in the hands of a professional.
     
  18. Wayne Decker: There are NO "pro" or "prosumer" cameras. Nobody cares a fig what kind of typewriter Hemingway wrote his stories on.
    Love those comments, Wayne.
    Define Professional. Means basically nothing. Money? How much? Makes their living from their photography? That could be someone on an NFL sideline, on a model shoot in Central Park for Vogue, or a wedding photographer from Durand, Illinois. Different skill sets, maybe different cameras. Who cares? Call yourself a photographer and use whatever equipment gets the job done for you. If you need rapid focus capability and weather sealing then that's the camera you buy if you can afford to do so. What a manufacturing company, or another photographer, defines as "professional" does not matter. In most cases, we're only belittled or "less than" if we allow ourselves to be. Enjoy your new camera!
     
  19. In some cases, those seemingly capricious categorizations from the manufacturers coincide with a different relationship between them and their customers. If you buy multiple D4-grade cameras and carry on in photography with a pro's hours and income derived from it, you can expect to strike up a more professional relationship with Nikon. They will take better care of you, as a pro, then they will someone who - as an amateur, or a buyer of their inexpensive consumer products - doesn't necessarily represent the visibility, long term repeat business and brand loyalty. Nikon doesn't include their lower-priced gear in such programs.

    Oh, and ... you better believe that the more complex AF system on the more expensive bodies is useful. Along with the higher frame rates, bigger buffers ... it increases the keeper rate when shooting difficult action-y subject matter. As someone who sells such work, I can assure you that - for me - every penny that goes into those extra AF sensors has been repaid many times over. That hasn't stopped me from also buying a consumer-grade Nikon body (a D3200, in my case), since it's wonderfully small and light for casual walk-around use.
     
  20. I love these comments. One remark about ruggedness and reliability. You can buy 3 entry level bodies, save a lot of money and have a more reliable system than with one pro level body. That being said I still prefer the prosumer bodies for the possibilities they offer and if I could afford one, I'd buy a pro level camera. Not a rational choice but an emotional one.
    And now I come to think of it, my Canon A1, EOS-5 and EOS-5D have each failed once, while the lesser bodies: AE1, EOS 500n, EOS 30 and EOS 10D never failed.
     
  21. A D40 is never a professional camera regardless of who is using it. A D4 will always be a professional camera body regardless of who is using it. It's about the build quality of the equipment not how it is being used. It's the same with any tools it's not about who is using them. Tools designed and built as professional tools are professional tools even if they sit in a hobbyists home and are rarely used. Thats not to say some cheap brands won't label equipment as professional even though it is cheap cr*p. However that is not the case here we are talking about Nikon that has a reputation of producing profession quality equipment. There is a huge difference in the build of a D4 and a D40, even sat on the shelf without ever being used one is built as a professional piece of equipment and the other is not.
     
  22. The D5100 is sometimes called an "upper" or "high-end" entry-level camera. It is also in the "prosumer" category, which in fact should be
    called "advanced amateur".

    If these marketing categories really meant something precise, that would put the D5100 close to being a low-
    level pro camera. By calling the cameras in the $400 to $800 range "entry-level", there is a marketing suggestion that the customer shoud
    start there and that point and shoot cameras are just fancy toys, not intended for serious people. That sales tactic works; lots of people
    could take the same photos with a P&S.

    Pro cameras cost a lot more. They are more rugged and may have advanced features some people need. The same ifs true of power
    tools. Cheap ones are garbage. For most activities, both moderate and high-priced ones will do a good job. If you will be using the tool
    everyday, you might be better off with a top-of-the line model.
     
  23. A D40 is never a professional camera regardless of who is using it.​
    Good thing I got this D5100 then? Really though, it sounds like I should stop worrying about this whole "professional" thing. I'm not in a war zone, not climbing Mt.Everest, not shooting RG3 from the sidelines for ESPN, so the build quality of a pro-camera is not that important to me at the moment, especially since I can't afford one anyway. From what you guys are telling me, I should do just fine with my new D5100, am I right?
     
  24. I mean, basically what I want to achieve is quality enough to be able to sell prints up to poster size, have images good enough for publication should I get a decent photography job (newspaper, weddings, I dunno), and have a camera that can perform well in those rare yet intense situations, like seeing a fast, rare bird. It sounds like I have a camera capable of all that, assuming I am bringing my compositional A-game.
     
  25. Yes you have the right camera because you feel comfortable with it and you don't see that a 10 times more expensive camera can offer you anything of value. If you feel that way you certainly have the right camera and you should quit worrying about having the right camera.
    Like some posters already said your D5100 is not professional grade but it certainly suitable to do professional work with it.
     
  26. Back in the day they use to call it "Heavy Duty" or Industrial grade.
     
  27. Can I not have a lucrative business, or amazing photos, or any amount of respect, just because I am using the $600 camera and not the camera that costs 10 times more?​
     
    Well, take some amazing photos and we'll see!
     
    Are my abilities as a photographer and level of respect I can achieve things that are dictated solely by my pay grade?​
     
    There will always be people in the world who will look down on you because you don't have the nicest clothes, or live in the nicest neighborhood, or drive the nicest car, etc, etc, ETC. The problem is usually something wrong with them, not with you.
     
    Enjoy your d5100, I love mine! One thing I can't understand is why Nikon doesn't make any more "upscale" models with the articulated LCD. Is it a ruggedness issue? It sure helps with composition in awkward positions, and it helps to keep the screen clean as well.
     
  28. "There are NO "pro" or "prosumer" cameras."​
    Nikon Professional Services specifies qualifying standards for professional photographers and eligible equipment.
     
  29. Back in the day they use to call it "Heavy Duty" or Industrial grade.​
    That actually sounds like a much better term. It implies that the product will survive longer and be less prone to wear and tear. Calling it "professional" makes it sound like anything else won't produce good results, regardless of how it is built.
     
  30. All camera can take photos. The term professional was really coined when the rugged film SLRs were around. Cameras
    like the Nikon F or Canon F1 could almost literally stop a bullet. They lacked some of the features of their cheaper
    siblings but the designs were unchanged and supported for many years. As they evolved they became system cameras
    where different accesories could change how the camera behaved. The prism could be changed for different approaches
    ( waist level, speed finder etc...) and to add modes such as aperture priority. The focusing screen could be changed to
    change the metering pattern and motors / winders could be added - on Canon to give shutter priority. These cameras
    were very sturdy - I remember pop photo testing the "New F1" in the shower. I still have my pair of New F1s and they
    have survived almost 30 years of abuse and bad conditions - one was even kicked down a mountain and has the dent to
    prove it. As we moved through AF bodies and into DSLRs Nikon and Canon kept these designations of pro bodies. Of
    course with a DSLR reliability and durability are less important t.han with an old film body. You would shoot a film body
    for many years but with a DSLR obsolescence creeps in quickly. One area where the pro bodies still have advantages is
    battery life (they have much bigger batteries) controls (at least with Canon the controls are much better and you don't
    have the silly mode dial) and shutter reliability. Build quality is very expensive but with an all electronic camera perhaps
    becomes less important. I am sure that my Leica M6 and Canon F1 s will still be going strong long after the last D3 has
    died.
     
  31. Going out on a limb here: Entry cameras aren't necessarily fragile. Remember the celebrated free fall of a Canon Digital Rebel (XT?) with 18-55mm IS lens from an altitude of 3000 ft into a muddy field? The camera and lens survived. These entry cameras are a lot tougher than we give them credit, although the working parts might not stand up to as much wear.
    For me, the differences between consumer and pro are somewhat fuzzy. Pro cameras are cameras that tend to be preferred by pros. This doesn't necessarily correspond to what the manufacturers designate for us as consumer, prosumer and pro. For instance there are a lot of Canon lenses that pros are very comfortable using that are not L ("Luxury") lenses (Canon's elite lenses designed for pro use). Likewise, pros will sometimes use unlikely cameras for various reasons. Lots of photojournalists shoot with PowerShot G series cameras, for instance (not even SLR cameras).
    For me, the user interface of a Nikon D40 or a Digital Rebel is an exercise in frustration. The cameras I prefer have plenty of designated buttons and wheels, possibly even a joystick. I can use them mostly without scrolling through menu screens. Consumerish functions (e.g. cryptic automatic modes -- flower in front of mountain mode or mystery green rectangle) are often minimized or absent. The viewfinder is large and bright. It also feels comfortable in my hand. (Different people prefer different sizes of cameras.) The camera isn't necessarily complex or packed with features. My 5D is a very simple camera, for instance (designated "prosumer" by Canon). What makes the camera work for me is that it is intuitive to use. I can do what I need to do, and I can do it quickly. I really don't care what Canon designates for me as "professional." I just use a camera that works well for me. And because I'm using it as a pro (nowadays more as a semipro), it is therefore a pro camera.
     
  32. NPS created a distinction between pro and non-pro as much to save themselves the hassle of dealing with broken D70's, D40's and D50's as anything.
    Feature and functionality wise - the "pro" camera of 5 years ago - the D2x lags far behind the current D3200 and D600 - neither of which are "pro" bodies.
    On a Nikon the biggest difference is how accessible features / functions are - you can change both aperture and shutter speed on a D3200 as well as on a D4 - but the D4 puts more of the controls at your fingers.
     
  33. The main thing that makes a camera a professional camera is the ability of the person using it.
     
  34. Calling it "professional" makes it sound like anything else won't produce good results, regardless of how it is built.​
    I think this is more your perception than anything else. The "pro" gear isn't generally about better results per se, but about more reliably producing them on demand, day in day out. If your gear fails because you used it while following a bride from the church to the limo in the rain, then your results are not going to be good (because they won't exist for any shots after the gear failed).

    If the more expensive AF system, or the higher frame rate, or the bigger buffer allow you to get a shot (or an in-focus shot) that a slower camera or less nimble AF system can't be relied on to help you nail, then the results - a crucial frame missing from a sequence, or a subject's perfect moment, slightly out of focus - aren't as reliably good. Differences like that are far less important for people who can shoot on their own schedule, or when the weather suits them.

    "Amateur" doesn't mean "less good." It means "done for the joy of doing it," as opposed to "done for a living." And of course it's possible to professionally shoot using gear that - if it breaks or doesn't deliver - doesn't matter, because perhaps the genre, subject matter, or customer expectations/deadline aren't make-or-break. Landscapes, product shoots, interiors, etc ... not the same as events, sports, etc.
     
  35. Some of the best pictures on this site were taken with prosumer cameras, if that's any consolation.
     
  36. There are enough people chasing 'magic bullets' who have money to burn, that the camera manufacturers think it worthwhile to make up these words and market their goods accordingly. I've never seen a pro buy a camera based on what the manufacturer called it. Pros buy tools that will do the job they need to get done, period. If it's better for them to buy 10 throw-away 'entry levels' rather than one 'pro' camera, then that's what they'll do.
    Speaking personally, I got over that whole 'magic bullet' thing and started concentrating on pictures, and I've found that my best pictures were made with obsolete 'pro' cameras on occasion (like my 12 year-old Canon D30), but as often as not I've used a P&S or even the 1950s equivalent of a P&S. However, people like me are completely invisible to camera manufacturers. I've only ever bought 2 new cameras in nearly 40 years of shooting, and I returned one of those. Both were P&Ss.
    If I were, heaven forbid, a wedding photographer, I would be forced to use different tools. That is perhaps the one field in photography where the camera is part of the performance, and not just a tool to produce images.
     
  37. I think the problem here is simply one of definitions. Each manufacturer has a top range of heavy duty, weather sealed and fully featured cameras which they have arbitrarily designated "professional". This would seem to be a ridiculous category name as, of course, people can earn their living using a wide range of camera bodies and many professional photographers simply don't need such heavy duty cameras with the expense and weight compromises.
    By same token, many amateurs do need these "professional" bodies for the type of photography that they do - trekking through deserts, up mountains, shooting on racing yachts, in inclement weather, for motor sports, etc. Whether or not they earn their living doing that is irrelevant - and as Harry says, amateurs often produce the best images.
    It would be better if the top tier of cameras from the various brands were simply designated "Heavy Duty" or "Premier Line" or something more relevant - the term "professional" seems a little misplaced and confusing to me.
     
  38. I keep thinking of the term military specification or milspec. A camera sold to professionals will meet a higher level of quality control (one hopes), have closer tolerances, be up to latest features of connectivity and have all the ports and outlets that pros use. Lately, there is a demand for water resistance which costs extra to design and fabricate. For lenses, the label is similar. Higher specification, assuming use under more torturous conditions. Prosumer is a wishy washy term. All of this is fodder for forums that dwell on small marginal differences in results. The results nowadays are pretty good at all build and price levels. All DSLRs nowadays have a basic professional look. Under the hood the real pro ones have alloy bodies, and they feel and weigh a bunch. I have used the Canon top of the line F-1 in the day with its titanium shutter curtain and it took little time to see the difference from say an FTb which had a cloth curtain shutter. Nowadays I don't get to compare bodies much. They come and go. Lenses interest me more. But Matt M., I would not get sucked into the status business. It is as pointless as yesterday's megapixel race.... I got some of my most appreciated shots years ago with a Canon MC point and shoot because it was comfortable to use and with me at the time. But one fall and it went kaput, so that would rule it out for pro( i.e. paid) assignments.
    In film days, there was a status buzz to shooting weddings with the pricey Hasselblad, but so many moneymakers here used Bronica SQA. Or even a cheaper Mamiya C330. All professional, some just gentrified Swedish like the Volvo brand.
     
  39. Galen Rowell shot some of his best work on an N80, which most people considered to be a hobbyist's camera. He was
    also a big fan of the F100, one of those bodies which used to be tagged with the ridiculous "prosumer" label.

    (What the heck a prosumer is I still can't figure out. A pro who consumes cameras?)

    Look at any gathering of press or sports photographers. Some will carry D3/4 and 1D type bodies. Some will carry
    D700's or 5D2's or 7D's with or without grips. All of these folks are professional photographers, not because their cameras meet some
    set of standards, but because their WORK does.
     
  40. Matt Murphy - "Using my upgrade as an example, its like the D5100 is 2x better than my D40X, for $600, and the D4 5x better for $6000."
    This is called diminishing returns and is the same with practically everything else.
    Don't worry about this. In reality, it takes care of itself. If you become successful enough with your D5100 to threaten its longevity, the money will appear for an upgrade -- and remember, you'll need a spare(s). If you can make pictures that look good/compelling enough, only a few will care what was used to make it.
    Don't forget that cameras are more than image-making devices. They're also signifiers of status, something that is important to many amateurs (and pros). This sells more than a few top-level models. As you become more knowledgeable you wil realize how important it is for you to do your part and the gear to match your actual needs and personal predilections. For Henri Cartier-Bresson, it was the then radically small, small format, relatively low image quality Leica. For David Burnett, a lowly (but light weight) Canon AE-1. For David Hurn, a Canon Rebel film camera. For Terry Richardson, a Yashica T4. Many use Holgas, Dianas, point and shoots, etc. I could go on, but the point is that the right tool isn't always the most expensive pro model, specially if weight is a consideration. Most of these photographers used other cameras in different circumstances.
    Enjoy your D5100. Make pictures with it, and don't worry about the "pro" models.
     
  41. My goodness, this subject sure brings out a lot of response.
    Matt, my first thought when reading your original post was, why does it matter?
    You seemed to be offended by the label "entry level DSLR". You used the term "belittling" in connection with this.
    Do you feel belittled? Shoved aside? Not taken seriously? Do 'pros' carrying $16K/15lbs of photo gear over their shoulder snicker at you?
    Probably not. So....don't worry about it. Go do your thing, smile and be happy, your photographs will speak for themselves, whatever they say and no matter what gear you used.
     
  42. I simply do not understand this categorization.
    What does it matter? It's not the tool that you use but the pictures that you make that matter.
    What makes a camera professional grade?
    A professional camera is a camera that is designed for the professional photographer in mind, based on their requirements and feedback from existing models aimed at this market. Typically this includes good ergonomics, good controls (i.e. specific buttons for important controls, a separate dial for aperture etc.), fast and reliable autofocus, high quality viewfinder, weather sealing and robust build, etc. Something that is made for the professional photographer in mind. A D5100 has numerous issues that would bother many experienced shooters including a fuzzy pentamirror viewfinder from which you can barely see if the image is in focus or not, awkward controls, too small size, autofocus that doesn't work with many older lenses; so sparse AF point spacing that you can't position the subject where you'd want in the image (of course you can focus and recompose if the subject is static but if it's moving and you're shooting at f/2 or f/1.4 then you're out of luck with the D5100/D3200 etc.). The user interface of the D5100 would drive me crazy (I'm not a professional photographer though, but photography is close to being the purpose of my life). The quality of the viewfinder image is central to the user experience of a DSLR for me. I just can't stand it when the image is such that it forces me to try to see the subject better and more clearly and fail, time and time again. I would like the D5100 (or D5200) for macro because of its LCD, but the optical viewfinder is of such quality that I will not buy the camera.
    But this is just me; there are other people who use it and obviously get good results so if you like it use it and make the pictures count. That's all that matters - what you think of it, and what kind of results you get.
     
  43. basically what I want to achieve is quality enough to be able to sell prints up to poster size, have images good enough for publication should I get a decent photography job (newspaper, weddings, I dunno)​

    People used to use the D1x and D100 for that so what you have now is more than capable.
     
  44. What makes a professional camera is the photographer holding it.
     
  45. My Nikon F3 bodies do not have the word "pro" anywhere visible . My Mamiya RZ67 however actually does state "Pro II" on it. Therefore, I'm only a pro when using the Mamiya. If only everything in life was as simple as this. :)
     
  46. Marc Todd: Too funny! Thanks!
     
  47. Mr. Murphy...
    Today it is mostly advertising, pricing and sales pitch.
    A. T. Burke
     
  48. Well, unless anyone has anything else to say, I do believe we have settled this issue.
    You are all professional forum posters. Seriously, do threads ever go south on this site? This site breaths etiquette. I may never ask photography questions anywhere else.
     
  49. "Seriously, do threads ever go south on this site?"
    Not that I can recall.
     
  50. Seriously, do threads ever go south on this site?​
    Well, there's the "Off Topic" forum...
     
  51. It's not a universal thing. A D4 is a pro camera because it's designed to meet the needs of certain pros - mostly action or journalism shooters. But there are a heck of a lot of wedding pros who are much more likely to be packing a D700 and a D300 or a couple of 5D series than a D4 or a 1D mark whatever it is now. There are landscape pros who would be much more likely to use a D800, 5D or medium or large format film. I've seen wedding and portrait pros with a D7000.
    Usually you don't see pros with a D5100 because they lack some features, like metal body, and they're not as fast as higher end models, but that doesn't mean they couldn't use one if they wanted. The D5100 is a consumer camera because it's designed to the specs consumers want - it's a lot lighter than a pro grade camera, a lot less expensive, simpler AF system, quick access to video functions, a lot of automated modes, etc. For most amateurs it's a better camera than a D4.
     
  52. "...do threads ever go south on this site?"​
    Try some "film vs digital" threads. Or anything that only slightly resembles a film vs digital thread. No matter how well intended by the person starting the thread, these almost invariably deteriorate.
     
  53. Did someone say that a thread was going South?
    Well, here I am!
     
  54. Matt, my first thought when reading your original post was, why does it matter?​
    john, that was exactly what I was thinking. To me equipment is important. I am not in that "let's shoot everything with a cell phone" crowd, but there is no need to obsess about gear. The OP should just get what works for him and then go have fun.
    What makes a camera professional grade? I have been checking them out and it seems like the major difference is that these "pro" cameras, like the D4, are more capable when it comes to layout and not necessarily image quality.​
    Matt as someone suggested you should just go rent a D4 and shoot with it for a couple of days and decide whether it is "Pro" in your opinion. I wouldn't get offended or caught up in nomenclature. Most of us know what "Pro" means so it is a handy term to let us know what we are dealing with. It's just like the color temperature references in photography are completely opposite to the color/temperature relationship in nature and science but we are fine with it because we know what they mean.
    My main point here is that people make it seem like having a pro camera makes a photographer a pro.​
    [citation needed]
    List for us these "people." Everyone posting in this thread has said quite clearly "pro" refers a lot to things like build quality. I'm not sure if you have ever shot film but you can take the exact same picture with a $20 used camera as you would with a $500 "pro" camera. The difference is the pro model will have better build quality, more robust shutter, weather sealing, better ergonomics, faster shutter speeds available, better auto focus, etc. Basically the camera can take more of a beating and it has some expensive features that help you capture that critical shot. It's amusing to watch you digital guys get baffled by the fact a camera that costs three times as much has the same image quality! Welcome to our world. Glad you finally arrived. By the way some of the improvements in the "Pro" models may seem only incremental but the price increase may be exponential. Well as with all things you have diminishing returns. You have to spend a lot more to push certain parameters just a bit further. I'm a Canon guy and I can tell you most of the low hanging fruit is already packed into the lower end models. The t4i is a very capable model. Once you decide you want more fps or faster shutter speed you have to spend progressively more to engineer that stuff. To go from a shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second to 1/8000 of a second might not seem like much to you but I'm sure the costs involved go up substantially or else everyone would be doing it in entry level cameras.
     
  55. A pro camera is nothing but a tool. A pro chooses the camera just as a mechanic chooses the correct wrench. Durability is an issue but frankly I have had to have my "pro" cameras repaired so often I am not sure this holds water. My D2X and D3X are sure tanks but the former has been back to Nikon twice this year. My D300 is still going strong as is the D700.
    On assignment for the paper I use the D2X or D3X. One feature above all the others is the reason I do. They both have voice annotation. I don't have to carry cut-line information in notebooks. This makes it much easier to work. MUCH. I wish Nikon would put voice memo in the add-on grips like they did with the D100. It would save me a fortune. I like the fast shutter response of the D2X and D3X. I like the frame rate of the D2H. There are times when I like the high speed crop mode. If I am not working in challenging light I prefer the D2X or even my old D2H to the D3X because workflow is so much easier.
    For combat photography (weddings) the D3X and D700 are the hot ticket. I like the D2X for studio portraits. Don't ask me to justify this I just like the way it renders skin tones and it likes my lighting. Of course it is obsolete but it still seems to get published a lot. You did not ask about lenses so we will leave that. There is no such thing as a pro camera that does not have a professional flash attached to it. (Or in the photogs pocket.)
    A pro camera is a pro camera because it has a real professional photographer attached to it. That is someone who absolutely has to get the shot. Who has the knowledge to select that camera to fit the work he must do that day. It is a photographer who sits down and correctly selects the settings that are appropriate for the camera and the days assignment(s) before snapping away. It is someone with years of training and experience. Someone who would rather attend a seminar on lighting than pour over MTF tables. It is a photographer who will present the customer 20 great pictures rather than 750 choices. A professional camera is one that someone uses to make money. And a professional is someone who can tell you exactly why they chose that camera, that day and what they are going to do with it in advance. And, of course, the pro is the guy who is looking around and not at your equipment. And we wear those cool vests so you can tell who we are.
     
  56. By the way some of the improvements in the "Pro" models may seem only incremental but the price increase may be exponential. Well as with all things you have diminishing returns. You have to spend a lot more to push certain parameters just a bit further......Once you decide you want more fps or faster shutter speed you have to spend progressively more to engineer that stuff. To go from a shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second to 1/8000 of a second might not seem like much to you but I'm sure the costs involved go up substantially or else everyone would be doing it in entry level cameras.​
    I wonder if that's strictly true, or if it's more a matter of amortizing the cost over a much larger number of units sold?
    How many D5100's has Nikon made? Versus how many D4's?
     
  57. A professional camera is one that someone uses to make money​

    I think that is the only factual part of your list!
     
  58. I wonder if that's strictly true, or if it's more a matter of amortizing the cost over a much larger number of units sold?
    How many D5100's has Nikon made? Versus how many D4's?​
    Jim, those truths are not mutually exclusive. But you are right I forgot to mention that costs to the consumer per a unit go up if fewer units are made. I still shoot film and I deal with that problem all the time. Even the smallest crudest used part for my snazzy medium format camera costs a prohibitive amount. And that amount is a fraction of what it costs new.
     
  59. Some of the best photographers I know are amateurs and have been acquainted with some pretty poor pros over the years.
     
  60. I was thinking about this recently. The question was, if I was given a D3200 and a D4 and the opportunity of taking a landscape picture in good light with a tripod with as much time to setup as I wanted, which one would produce better results? I am guessing that there would be very little difference. The D3200 could in fact be blown up bigger.
    However, when you start to consider situations like low light, harsh environment, moving subjects, etc, the D4 will continue to take better photos with it's superior ISO, weather-proof body and frames per second / autofocus.
    Therefore, to simplify this discussion, I believe a pro body is one that is more dependable in all conditions. That is what professionals need - best quality with best reliability.
     

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