Your camera doesn't matter

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by ruchika_karda, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. Recently I came across an article on which says that photography is purely a from of art and that it doesn't actually matters which equipment you use. In other words, it went on convincing that your camera doesn't matter. I cannot accept this fact simply bcz I cannot capture motion or photograph shallow dof with my compact camera. I think the equipment plays a pivotal role in photography. What do you think?
  2. Perhaps it is Ken Rockwell that doesn't matter.....?
  3. It might not be strictly true in every case but it's a good article to show that you do not need to obsess over equipment and be keen to upgrade at every available opportunity in order to improve your photography.
  4. Ruchika, this comes up every few weeks; use the forum search and you'll see all the previous discussions.
    Basically, if the camera matters to you, then it matters. If not, then no, it doesn't matter. :)
  5. Dear Ruchika,
    Depends upon what you shoot and with what objectives. Take example of Bresson. He is considered one hell of a master. His strength was his obsession, his being at right places, his composition and capturing moment. For his full life he used one camera and one lens...................Thats it...........Now what do you say.
    But if you are in realm of commercial magazine print photography, then camera does matter. Also for some even in art, the details that is captures, does matter.
  6. IF you really know how to use _your_ camera, it does not matter very much. Yes, there are limitations with cameras, no matter how good it may be. We just learn to live with the limitations and to use the one we have in any or all possible ways. Back in the 40's taught 4H and Scouts Photography. Many of them learned to produce excellent photos with whatever camera they had. From Box camera's with only two lens openings to the best which compared to today's cameras were very basic... One of them won a N.E. Photography Club competition, with a Kodak Vest Pocket camera. Then, Ive seen some of the worst photos ever, shot with Canon, Nikon, Leica's and other camera's over the years.
    Have seen some excellent shots with the first BW Polaroid Camera by Ansel Adams. It is not the camera which creates, but the Brain the camera is just a tool we use. Have used many, many cameras over the past 74 years. Used many formats from 5x7 down to formats as small as 8mm movie frames. In 35mm have been using Nikon since the 50's in the past several years switched to Digital Nikons. But at 81+ carrying two or three bodies and half a dozen lenses gets too heavy to take out every day. You may not be able to get a shallow dof with your compact camera. But Ive bought a cheap Fuji compact digital last fall so that Id always have a camera with me. Can get a shallow DOF with it. Have some really good shots that Id have totally missed without it. In fact some days shooting humming birds in bright sun, the DOF was toooooo shallow to catch five or six birds some blossoms. So had to zoom in close to eliminate the ones that would have been out of focus. The closer you get, the shallower the DOF will be.
    First, go through your manual and read it fast, just the headings.
    Second read all boldface or italics.
    Third, read it like a novel, without trying to remember anything.
    Fourth, read it slowly, and HIGHLIGHT the first sentence of a paragraph you feel is important to you or your use of the camera.
    Fifth read only what you highlighted each time before you practice, go out and shoot.
    USE your camera _every_ day for at least 12 weeks. 12 Weeks is the habit forming cycle, by doing that you will create habits so that you use it automatically without thinking about anything technical....
    Each time you use the camera to practice, before you do, read the first sentences you highlighted.
    IF the manual is written correctly _that_ sentence will contain all info in the paragraph. If you have a problem, go back and read the manual about that feature of your camera. Before long, you will know _everything_ there is to know about it, and will use it to the fullest. You may not get everything you want, but you will get more than 90 percent of the users who do not practice and learn everything about the same camera.
  7. Sometimes, the web site you mention will contain a small amount truth. It's probably accidental, and no harm should come from it.
    It is true that the photographer is far more important than the equipment. Nevertheless, the right equipment is important also.
  8. One bit of advice from a gray hair. The camera and apparatus of the printing and developing process are just tools. Too often, we fall in love with our tools and the art and the science of photography becomes the less important ingredient.
    A story-maybe true maybe not: A sports photographer goes to ballgame and you guessed it, his only camera fails. He buys a Brownie from a fan, a Pulitzer Prize results.
  9. Any camera will do me as long as it is easy to use and makes images (film, digital, whatever) which have clean tones and will enlarge to a good size (16x20 inches or bigger). Over the years, I find my desire to carry a lot of lenses has decreased - very often I carry 50 mm only (for full-frame DSLR or 35 mm), although I have one project running which calls for a 400 mm.
  10. So we are slanting towards........the fact......that the camera does matter a little, the person behind camera, and his interaction with the camera matters a LOTTTT
  11. It has nothing to do with Ken Rockwell specifically. Many people have said that about cameras, and many people still say that. It's a truism that just happens to be true. The camera matters if you have a specific need that must be met and can't be met in any other way than by a specific camera feature, but other than that, the camera has only ever mattered in pop photography magazines and on internet photography forums. Even so, it's surprising how even specific needs for specific situations can be met with simple equipment. It's all in knowing your camera, and in how you decide to use it and work around its limitations whenever necessary.
    The OP's example of depth of field from a compact P&S camera versus a DSLR is irrelevant, because they are totally different classes of camera. But even then, the compact camera has some advantages that the DSLR doesn't, and in the right hands, it might result in a photograph being taken that would not have been taken at all with a larger camera.
    Of course, without the people who don't agree with this point of view, there would be no camera industry to speak of, and almost nothing to post about on internet photography forums.
  12. The person behind the camera is more important than the camera. Learn to stay within the limitations of the camera, don't blame the camera. Some recent examples.
    A recent thread has someone complaining about the noise from his Canon 5DII. Dude, if one of the best DSLR cameras in the world isn't good enough, find another hobby.
    Someone proudly posts some shots from his expensive new lens. They are possibly the worst in-focus images I have ever seen.
    At an evaluation at my local camera club, a projected image is praised for having excellent lighting, composition, and mood. It is later revealed that it was taken with a phone camera.
  13. One needs to hear David Doubilet speak on the matter in the National Geography DVD "Photographers". If anyone doesn't know, Davis Doubilet has been an underwater photographer for the last 50 years. Long story short, the equipment is important.
    But are you pushing the limits of what your gear can do (and not just for the sake of pushing limits)? As for me, the camera I'd really really want hasn't been built yet... so I learn how to temporarily get around the problems with what I have. The trick is knowing when to compromise, and what to compromise on.
  14. I just did a major job for a client, involving 10 models, and 5 days non-stop shooting from dawn until dusk, outdoors, 5500 images taken.
    Most were taken with Canon dslr's using their ability to provide excellent af, predictive af, fill flash, selective focus, sequence shooting, and superb low light capture.
    But I also shot a load of stuff using a tiny Ricoh GR3 compact with a fixed 28mm lens. using its stealth ability, stunning close focus ability, and its really compelling depth of field that let me fill the foreground with a detail yet retain some background to provide context.
    All the images met the clients needs, eloquently.
    Needing to interpret a client brief, and exceed their expectations in doing so, is all about knowing how the tools in your box work and when to select a particular one. Then there's your materials knowledge too - light, and people - and knowing how they work.
    Cameras matter, but only in so far as they work for you and do what you need.
  15. In some cases that camera does not matter all that much, in other it does.
    Shooting indoors with available light work far better with a good camera.
    Sometimes a better camera will not produce images that are far better, but is still more fun to use, and for me photography should be fun.
    For me I don't want to be limited to taking photo outside in good light, I want to be able to get photos in poor light and have them look good,for me the camera and lens do matter.
  16. "Gear is good; vision is better" a quote from photographer David dcChemin. cb :)
  17. If you don't have a camera, and want to take a photo, then the camera matters a lot.
  18. the right tool for the job is what matter.. could be anything from a shoe box, a iphone 4.. a leica, a nikon a medium format digital back.. all have there + and -.. and all can produce amazing image or bad one.
    in way i agree with Ken.. but you need to add some more information when you say something like that because many people just read the first *camera is not important* and start ranting about the subject on something taking out of context ; )
  19. I agree with everybody. The camera does and doesn't matter. What matters is your visual sophistication. Learn and understand graphics. A good designer can pull a good, interesting picture out of anything with any camera. Experience and familiarity with whatever camera, a toy camera (or Leica set on "TOY"!) informs the designer's imagination.
  20. The camera matters in the sense that your mental model of what a photograph should be needs to be in sync with the camera you use. If I was standing next to Ansel Adams with a Holga when he saw Moonrise, I am probably going to be pretty disappointed if I expect my shot to turn out like his from his 8x10. Mine could be better to some but if my mental model of what the photograph should look like is as his was (at least for himself), then I would be very disappointed.
    I think this is the reason why many long time photographers will have different and disparate camera equipment. Each can work to solve certain visual problems--in this sense the camera matters. However, if a seasoned worker were to be stuck with just one camera--any camera--that they understood, they could create wonderful images if they could match their mental model with that device. In other words, if they have the ability to look for images that they want to see in the form that the camera can produce--including taking risks and creating the failures that are important to the creative process.
    I think that from a practical standpoint, this statement just suggests that one can make great images with any camera and chasing something better isn't going to make the content of your images better (the idea of the person behind the camera learning how to see). The reason to get a better camera isn't that you are going to make better images but that those same images might be better in a technical sense--eg. can make larger prints because you have more MP or better glass that maintains the sharpness you demand at larger sizes etc. Of course, there is also matching the camera to the task in the way you want to do the task--you can shoot wildlife with an 8x10 but it will be a different thing than one can do with a 35mm.
  21. It's easy to say the camera does not matter. Good gear enables, bad gear gets in your way or imposes limits. What is good and bad depends on preference, style and vision. The fact that Cartier-Bresson shot most using one lens and one camera does not mean it's suitable for each and every person. His 50mm lens is known to be problematic to shoot wildlife predators, for example.
    So, it's too simple to say the camera does not matter. It's also too simple to say vision is sufficient.
  22. Wouter-vision in not 'sufficient', it's 'better' (than gear). cb
  23. If camera equipment doesn't matter why does Ken Rockwell obsess over each and every minute detail in discussing seemingly every camera, lens, and other piece of gear ever made?
    Also, why does he have paid links to so many vendors selling this gear? Shouldn't he have links to gallery openings and web pages of photographers he admires?
  24. SCL


    Equipment matters for some things, and less so for others. 99% of the photographers out there today could do just as well with a simple point & shoot as they could with a full blown full featured DSLR. If you don't believe me, just look at the sheer number of online photos done with a simple iphone or other phone outweighs the DSLR shots manyfold. Go to your local grocery store or pharmacy and take a look at what is being printed up at the print machines...mostly P&S photos. People using this site fall into the other 1%, in that they think about things like composition, proper exposure, depth of field, interchangeable lenses, flash setups, etc....things which may be more easily achieved using more complex features. Yet - Gene has a pretty strong following as he uses mostly cameras from the 1930s-50s, developing old films sent to him found in old cameras, and trying out the cameras in our "modern" age with very successful insightful images. Yes - if you want to do a lot of nature photography you may need a telephoto or macro lens. Yes you may have occasions when you need a wide angle lens because you can't back up enough to get what you want into the frame of a normal lens. So equipment may matter...but generally it isn't the driver of good or insightful photos, whether it be wedding, street shooting, landscape, or run of the mill snapshots. Unfortunately too many of us (myself included) got hooked long ago by the marketers who convinced us to buy another lens or accessory, or upgrade our cameras - to become better photographers, or at least expand our skills. I collected camera gear over a half century, my wife collected cooking books. I made increasingly interesting photos and she did the same with food. Could we have done it with our initial tools - probably 80-90% of it, sur, but it has been a fun time upgrading, collecting, learning and using these tools.
  25. Never has..... the camera is a tool.....
    I've had a news photo published that was taken with a Panoramic throw away camera because it was the only thing I had at the moment to document a news even. I think your understanding of the limitations of your gear will go a long way to a successful result.
    With todays cameras the knowledge of the technology is slowing being eroded which is fine because that allows the photographer to concentrate on more on the aesthetics of the image, or not....
  26. Specialized tools are needed for specialized task. But specialized tools are not needed for every task. Not every task is special. Many (most) are ordinary and can be served well by any number of tools. If the majority of tasks are not special then the tools do not matter as much. If the majority of tasks are special then the tools do matter.
    For the majority of photographers in the world (myself included), their tasks are not that special. But a lot people like to believe they are because it allows them an excuse or a justification for their gear obsession.
  27. Charles,
    Better.... it is not better. You need both. You need some tool to convert your vision into a photo, in the end. ANd the tool need to support that execution.
    But we agree that developing a vision and working on that is far more important (and will ultimately yield more interesting photos), than upgrading gear.
  28. Wouter-I think that you misunderstand the quote; it does not say you don't need both. Gear is good. Vision is better.

  29. The camera is a contributing factor, but...
    Give a monkey and a skilled photographer the same equipment and do you expect the same results?
    Really, equipment matters, but the photographer is the most important element. The equipment is just the tools to achieve the desired result. The desired result is determined by the brain behind the camera.
  30. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    In terms of equipment, lighting matters far more than a camera. You can change from a cheap consumer body to the most expensive professional body and up to a reasonable size the prints won't show any difference. But you switch from an on-camera flash to a couple softboxes and the difference in images is apparent immediately, regardless of the camera.
    This is what gets missed in all this debate about equipment - it's always this camera vs that camera or this brand vs that brand or this lens vs that lens. Then someone says "what camera and lens do I need to shoot this?" when it's obvious that "this" was shot with a lot of lighting equipment, makeup artists, backgrounds or location searches, etc.
    In the end, light, whether natural or not, will have far more influence over the appearance of the photo than the camera. (Exceptions are special purpose cameras like swinging lens panoramics or Holgas.)
  31. This explains why the best wedding and sports photographers just use the cameras built into their cell phones. Why buy a fancy camera? These people don't need any silly bells and whistles. You can tell the amateur wanna-be's at sporting events, they are the ones with the useless huge lenses on the sidelines. Suckers.
  32. That’s right! It’s all about me, me, ME!
    If I use a 110 camera, with a Coke bottle lens, and a tiny piece of film, I can get the most beautiful 24” print. You say everything is fuzzy. You’re just stupid. You don’t understand art. It’s really wonderful because I did it. How else could anything be wonderful?
    Ken Rockwell likened photography to painting. I presume he was talking about painting a picture on canvas, and not about painting an automobile or a house. Speaking of which, I’d sure like to take up painting because I have vision (no, not the eyes. At my age, they’re getting pretty fuzzy and dim). I’m going to run down and get myself one of those 4” wide house painting brushes from my local WalMart and use it to turn out some really fine art. How do I know it will be fine art? Simple. It’ll be my expression, my vision, me, me, ME. Yep, that’s how I define art and I don’t need no stinking artist’s brushes.
    I also agree it’s never about the tools. Why, just yesterday, I thought I’d put a nice two foot wide cement walkway next to my house. Ya' know, I was getting real tired of dirty shoes when it rains. Now this friend of mine had a Caterpillar D8 tractor with a ten foot wide dozer blade. No reason I can’t carve out a two foot wide, six inch deep patch of dirt to fill with cement with a ten foot wide blade. After all, I’m special. Too bad the neighbor’s house was only four feet away. That ungrateful *&%@@# didn’t realize that I had just made an artistic statement along the side of his house. The effects of rain that came last night helped change the color on what was left of his carpet in the most artistic way. I know one of these days he’ll come to his senses and thank me. That would only be proper. After all, I’m ME. I’m an artist.
    I’m sure a very few will understand that I’m just making fun of the “it’s all me, my equipment doesn’t matter” concept. To you few reasonable people, I apologize for being redundant.
    For the majority, I was trying to point out that sometimes equipment does matter. I never knew Ansel Adams and therefore didn’t discuss the use of his equipment with him. I just have this nagging suspicion that he used larger models of large format cameras, rather than a Minox, for some specific reasons, which probably included properly making the artistic statement he wanted to make.
    Not all photography is done for the purpose of emotional, artistic fulfillment. Some of us low-end people have used it for fun, for illustration, and to document the people and objects of significance in our lives. In one of my folders here on Photonet, I have a picture of John Kennedy, taken months before he died. It was taken from across the street, using a precision camera with a high level lens. Yes, I could have taken it with a Lomo, but I would have missed the vibrant look on a quite pleased President Kennedy. He had just come from doing something he actually liked to do. He had given a commencement speech to people who had made an effort to prepare themselves to improve America’s future. Some presidents actually thought that was a good thing.
    Sure, he was campaigning also, no opportunities missed. But you can see a special smile beyond that of a plastic Hollywood expression. I see in that old photo the pride of accomplishment and the vibrancy of a young man at the top of his game. I didn’t get that picture because I was an artist. It wasn’t me, me, ME. It was a young man at the peak of his career, soon to have everything snuffed out in tragedy. I, or any photographer, should get artistic credit for any of that? Come on...........!
    A. T. Burke
  33. Ken, as if often the case, takes a valid point and states it as an absolute. (I read his site with interest, but you have to take what he says with a large pinch of salt - that's why you can't link to him from the Nikon forum...)

    I have quite a lot of camera kit (by standards outside; I don't believe any of it makes me a good photographer. However, it does let me take photos that I wouldn't be able to take with different kit - see the "those using less expensive equipment?" thread. Not necessarily better photos, just different ones. My camera allows me to be a bad photographer in far more flexible ways than if I'd spent less on it.

    The photographer is the most important contributor to the quality of a photograph - you cannot buy the ability to take a good shot. The camera matters, but on top of what you do with it. Ken's quite right to point out that a novice shouldn't spend money on preposterous equipment without knowing what they want - but there are good and justifiable reasons to shell out for expensive kit.
  34. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    This explains why the best wedding and sports photographers just use the cameras built into their cell phones. Why buy a fancy camera?​
    This is a ridiculous argument that has nothing to do with the intent of the posts here.
    FWIW, I shoot sports professionally, I use a Canon EOS 1DMk3. However, I know other shooters who are getting great stuff and working for magazines and web sites using consumer cameras like the EOS 40D. The second shooter for the magazine I currently shoot for uses a very low end consumer DSLR (it's a Nikon, not sure of the model) and gets decent shots.
  35. Tools alone, no matter how good they are, will not help an unskilled craftsman. An unskilled craftsman blames his tools. If you have decent tools, and the tools limit what you're able to do, then you need better tools.
  36. This is a ridiculous argument that has nothing to do with the intent of the posts here.​
    Hypothesis: The quality of photography equipment is essentially unimportant and skilled photographers can take amazing photos with simple equipment.
    Prediction based on Hypothesis: As skilled photographers would be able to take very good photos with simple equipment, these skilled photographers would not buy unusually expensive or inconvenient equipment.
    Observation: Professional photographers in the studio and in the field often have very expensive and inconvenient equipment such as large lenses, multiple cameras, and/or expensive lighting equipment.
    Conclusion A: Professional photographers are unskilled or have fallen for the hype
    Conclusion B: Equipment is actually important
    I am going with "B"
    BTW, modern DSLRs are very capable cameras. For sports photography I would certainly prefer a 40D or a low end DSLR over the best manual focus camera from 1985. I am not suprised that people are shooting for magazines with consumer-grade DSLRs. I used to use a 1DS Mk II at work for scientific/sample photography, and I would *not* trade my personal T1i for a 1DS MK II. The T1i, while a "lowly" camera, has magnified live view.
  37. Ask anyone serious about anything: bicycling, knitting, tennis, cooking, photography, whatever. Equipment matters a lot. But it's never all that matters.

    In the writing style that Ken Rockwell uses, when he says it doesn't matter, what he means is that the degree to which it matters needs to be considered with some perspective.

    I guess that's right. But he has also said that JPEGs produce better quality than raws, and that its silly to use a tripod. So perhaps he is just wrong all the time. Excuse me, I meant wrong SOME of the time. ;-)
  38. In my opinion the way you should look at equipment is like this. You as the artist, decide what kind of image you want to create, how large, how sharp, how much DOF, how far away, how bright, how dark etc.... And then you get the equipment that would allow you to do that. So the equipment is chosen after your artistic idea and not before.
  39. Recently I came across an article ...

    You've been had. KR inserts intentionally false claims into his writings to stir debate and to annoy people. Ignore him.
    In terms of equipment, lighting matters far more than a camera.
    Equally I could say that if you don't remember to charge the battery of your camera it matters not whether it is a good camera or not. Idiocy should not be assumed. Most people actually know that the light forms the picture.
  40. There are people who make bad pictures with good cameras, and there are people who make good pictures with old,
    cheap, or outdated equipment. We have all see examples of each. But these examples don't mean that cameras don't
    matter. Gear is one of many factors that influence the quality of a still image. Quality of light and the skill and taste of
    the photographer are also very important factors.

    That's my official response. My unofficial response is that the original post is, in my opinion, intentionally provocative.
    I have to wonder why someone would post a question like this in good faith. Was it intended to stir up an argument?
    If you are thinking about something or or you have a question, just post it. Don't rehash other people's blog posts.
    Think for yourself. We would prefer to discuss YOUR ideas.
  41. In any activity the tools are more important to some people than to others. If you think it's impossible to do something without a particular item then it probably will be. On the other hand if you are willing to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your resources you may be able to find an alternative solution.
  42. KR inserts intentionally false claims into his writings to stir debate and to annoy people.​
    I think that might be slightly unfair. What he does do is make sweeping (and often self-contradictory) claims without including the small print or context. This does tend to stir up more discussion than qualifying his assertions would have done, which gets him more traffic (and this is apparently not accidental) - which is fine, it's a living, I just warn people before pointing them at his site. But there is some useful information on his site too. There are also some glossed-over issues, some genuine (and I believe accidental) mistakes, some basic misconceptions (the Nikkor A-M/M switch is not a typo) and some significant bias - but this is the internet, and you have to expect it. There are also people posting on who claim that most modern camera features are useless, for example, and they're sometimes right.

    The camera doesn't matter, film is better than digital, the M3 is the best camera ever made (except possibly the Mamiya 6), auto-ISO should reset when you switch to manual, etc. are assertions with a grain of truth, but to get useful information from his site you have to wrap it all with "...under a certain set of circumstances". The circumstances in question change radically between articles on Ken's site, which is a little unusual, but if you apply your mental filters then he can sometimes provide a different perspective and say something worth listening to - and combining with information from other sources. If you use his site as a sole source of information, I'm not responsible for your schizophrenia.

    However, I don't think he deliberately tries to annoy people or be - strictly - inaccurate. Maybe I'm too willing to see the good in people?
  43. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Equally I could say that if you don't remember to charge the battery of your camera it matters not whether it is a good camera or not. Idiocy should not be assumed. Most people actually know that the light forms the picture.​

  44. Imagine if a racing driver said that the car doesn't matter, it's all the driver. What would you do? You'd hand him a Ford Pinto and let him try racing in the Indianapolis 500.
    That said if you handed me a modern indy car, all I could accomplish is killing myself. The result is both dependent on the talent AND the hardware.
  45. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There's a huge difference between race car driving and photography. So far, photography is not a competitive sport, nor is it limited to a certain geographic area, nor does it have a ton of rules about what it's required to do, etc. etc. etc. In the school of bad analogies, this one gets an A+.
  46. Gentlepersons....
    In defense of Ken Rockwell, whose one article I took exception to above, he does get a lot of stuff right. I find many of his product reviews to be a lot better and more accurate than those written by the pimps at some of the major photo magazines. However, I cannot pass by the irony of noting that he does review a lot of camera gear, but yet strongly implies elsewhere on his site that the gear doesn't make any difference. If the gear doesn't make any difference, why bother to rate whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, or to point out any features that may make a product better, or point out the lack of those features.
    Most of all, Ken Rockwell does have an interesting site. He does share with us in the photo community some information. Some of it's pretty good. Some of it is opinionated, which means some of us are going to agree, others disagree. However, if I had to comment on how well he explains himself and how well he states the facts, our Senate and House should be taking lessons from him.
    Ken....if you're reading this, please be assured I told my neighbor's insurance adjustor to name you as Doe 1 in his suit to recover damages to his client (see bulldozer results in my prior post in this thread). You wouldn't want to be left out, would you?
    A. T. Burke
  47. Mr. Spirer....
    If I were to have made Mr. Griffin's analogy, I might have posted:
    Imagine a messenger for a title company whose job is to constantly deliver documents from lender to lender, all day in the big city. He drives a Yugo. Although the Yugo may have been the high water mark of Serbo-Croatian technology, it was known to have an almost hourly breakdown rate. Could you expect good dependability and on time results from the messenger? The point I believe he was trying to make is that generally you cannot expect superior results with inferior equipment. On the other hand, the term "Lomography" only came to being because people enjoy and see art only because of Lomo's uniquely low quality results.
    Yes, I know that messengering is hardly a competitive sport either.
    A. T. Burke
  48. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    you cannot expect superior results with inferior equipment​
    "Superior results," if one is actually talking about photography, which does not really seem to be the case here, is about the impact of the photograph on the viewer. It can be taken with anything as long as the photographer has the ability to communicate through photography.
  49. I would say the camera is inconsequential, with a few caveats.
    You can go out with an old box camera and get most shots most of the time. Some of the time you cannot get some of the shots.
    I think you could similarly say that you could write most books with just a pen, but there are other options for getting it done out there that will make it a lot easier.
  50. Aother way of looking at this is to consider what Roger Hicks wrote on the subject:
    Once the quality of the camera exceeds that of the photographer (which it normally does) any extra quality is irrelevant.
  51. I'm a firm believer it is the artist behind the tool not the tool that is making the photograph. I know digital cameras have limitation, but that doesn't mean you can't make an outstanding photograph with a 1.3 mega pixel camera. Better tools are always nice and can help you achieve your goal faster, but it is the artist in you that is really producing what you want your audience to see.
  52. In certain areas the equipment is very paramount, underwater, hi-speed sports, where a "special" camera is the only way. In everyday photography, families, weddings,gatherings,photojournalism, candids, street photography,advertising, animals etc nearly all of us here are way over-camerad!
    Recently purchased my first "point and shoot" at Goodwill the charity store. A Pentax zoom60. The roll exposed was great! Great exposure, focus not always exactly where i wanted..Result is that i could have used one of these in place of fancy Leicas that hated flash! No hot shoe. Carrying a flash plus all my needed stuff made photography serious not fun. i was serious.
    My first digital Pentax Optio forced upon me, needed for stuff on the internet, pro work, changed my whole way!
    It is the individual not Leica or Canon or Nikon or Minolta/Sony or Deardorf..
    If You cannot see it yourself, no box is going to make it happen.
    Best advice,mine, "push the button".
    cost of Pentax 60Zoom was $2.53.Batteries extra $9,04. Film, developed and scan $ tax.
    Result priceless.
  53. I took my first 'serious' photographs at the age of 12 on an Ilford Sprite 127 (example here -
    The attached photograph was one of them. Technically it leaves much to be desired but the quality is sufficient to make the point. I think that Steve Smith's quote, above, from Roger Hicks is right on the nail.
  54. i tried taking a picture without a camera once, but regardless of how hard i tried i couldn't do it.
  55. Despite the over-generalization implied in the title of Ken Rockwell's article, there are some valid points in it. But while it may be true that a skilled photographer can take great pictures with an iPhone camera, she may not be able to get a specific shot with it. I don't think you could get a shot like this using Mathew Brady's equipment. So in that sense, equipment does matter.
  56. Mr. Spirer....
    You say:
    "'Superior results,' if one is actually talking about photography, which does not really seem to be the case here, is about the impact of the photograph on the viewer. It can be taken with anything as long as the photographer has the ability to communicate through photography.'"
    I strongly disagree. Photography for you, according to your statement, is about the impact on the viewer. That's fine for you and your absolute right to feel that way.
    That is not the case with all photographers, or all photographs taken by all photographers. I mentioned in an earlier part of the thread that some people take pictures for reasons other than impact, emotionality, etc. I cited an example of a photo I had of John Kennedy, shortly before he died. I needed a lens fine enough to resolve his features. Otherwise, he would not be recognizable. I did not take the picture with the intent of creating an impact on any viewer, including myself. I was simply trying to get a picture that would show his facial features. It was documentation.
    I know this makes me a lowly, non-artistic type. I know that lowers the worth of anything I do photographically. I did, however, do it, low value or no value or not. Perhaps you could look down from your lofty artistic perch to see there are us unwashed filthy masses out there who may not have your high level of taste and understanding. Therefore, we see things differently. Therefore, we may feel the need of superior equipment to get the photo that we tasteless, undereducated people nevertheless want.
    Think of the astronomer who finds a new star. He wants to put it on film to offer proof that it is there, or perhaps to enhance his academic standing, or for whatever reason. He is going to want photographic equipment, film, lenses, and the ability to produce a precise exposure in order to document the finding. He is not taking the picture so people will relate to it emotionally, perhaps on one hand, lifted by the beauty, on the other hand, feel small and insignificant in the universe because of seeing it. He just needs equipment suitable to capture the image.
    Different strokes for different folks. Even us unwashed ignoramuses (or should it be "ignoramusi?", I am too ignorant and tasteless to know anyway. As proof of my low end lack of vision, feel free to look at the low class, no count, unartistic, non-emotion producing pictures I have in my folders) may have a different stroke than our recognized, far superior, artistic, emotive, and most of all, impacting betters.
    A. T. Burke
    P.S. I may be quite low end, but the computer can sometimes make up for my obvious deficiencies. For those who are interested, the plural is actually "ignoramuses."
    P.P.S. If you recognize my second post that you are referring to is related to my first post, you might have then deduced that I was talking about/referring to photography. Granted, it was in a more roundabout way in order to answer additional posts, talking about tools.
  57. >> Once the quality of the camera exceeds that of the photographer (which it normally does) any extra quality is

    The relationship is more synergistic than that. The modern piano exists because Beethoven beat the pianos of his day
    into submission and piano makers vied to build better and better instruments in order to please him. On the flip side,
    the advent of jet aircraft forced pilots to learn new skills. Sometimes we limit the gear, and sometimes the gear limits
    us, but those limits are not immoveable. The photographer whose camera exceeds his abilities might be a better
    photographer in a year, and then the camera might be the bottleneck.
  58. >> i tried taking a picture without a camera once, but regardless of how hard i tried i couldn't do it.

    Best post on the entire discussion.
  59. Mr. South...
    You said:
    "The photographer whose camera exceeds his abilities might be a better photographer in a year, and then the camera might be the bottleneck."
    You made a good point. May I expand and say, a new and/or moderate level photographer with topflight equipment can get better before exceeding the capability of his equipment. Also, not all results produced by any photographer I know are at exactly the same level of technical competence and artistic merit. High level equipment will allow him to have a better picture when either he uses extreme effort or good luck falls his way. Good equipment expands possibilities, poor equipment limits them.
    A. T. Burke
  60. Wow, this is a very long thread for such a banal subject.
    I haven't the patience to read the whole thread, so perhaps someone has already made the comparison to a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain regarding old age. The same can easily be said of one's equipment.
    "It's a question of mind over matter; if you don't mind it doesn't matter"
  61. One thing about a hobby is you can do it any way you want. Spend a fortune on a fancy computer rig that has dummied down the process to boring or shoot an old junker held together with duct tape if you want. It's up to you as I don't care myself. .I think people can do great things with the darndest tools.
  62. If you take photographs, the camera matters - obviously. The only thing I ask of my camera equipment is that it doesn't limit me, technically or creatively, if it does, then I will buy something to solve the problem or upgrade. If it doesn't limit me, then I'm all set.
    The bottom line though is that cameras are simply dumb tools. They have no influence at all on the actual content of the images they take, and content is what images are about. Cameras simply help with focus and exposure, and they often get those wrong because they have no clue what they are being pointed at, or why. Clearly specialized needs require specialized equipment, and better cameras can provide higher resolution, better low light performance, weatherproofing, etc. Those may or may not be important to your picture taking.
    However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying equipment simply because you are a technophile or for pride of ownership. It's no-one's place to judge the reasons for another person's purchases or sneer because they perceive their own reasons to have more merit. If that were the case no-one would ever really need to buy more car than a Subaru.
    As with any tool the user's skill determines the quality of the end result - a camera can no more make a beautiful picture than a hammer can built a house - but doing the job without the right tools is pretty miserable too.
  63. Mr. Blume....
    It may be banal to you, o superior one. To us great unwashed masses, there may still be some question. Of course, that is only because we are of far inferior taste and intellect as yourself.
    And then, some of us may even think that it was your comment that was banal. Of course, that would only be to our lack of understanding, intellect, and taste.
    And even more, it may just be our good fortune that you have cast your pearls of wisdom amongst us unworthy swine.
    Yours in freeloading,
    A. T. Burke
  64. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    With these types of discussions, I just go look at people's photos to see how to take their statements. This is about photography, right?
    Well what do you know...
  65. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    And speaking of looking at photos, which seems to be not part of this for some people, check out Mario Giacomelli. His work is in museums around the world, many books have been published, some by the top publishers, he's generally regarded to be Italy's greatest photographer. Giacomelli shot most of his life with one lens with a broken shutter, stuck on 1/25. Beautiful photography, obvious that he didn't care at all about the equipment.
    (This doesn't apply to commercial work where very specific types of results can be required.)
  66. It may be banal to you, o superior one. To us great unwashed masses, there may still be some question. Of course, that is only because we are of far inferior taste and intellect as yourself.
    And then, some of us may even think that it was your comment that was banal. Of course, that would only be to our lack of understanding, intellect, and taste.
    A. T. Burke​
    I rest my case.
  67. I think that Steve Smith's quote, above, from Roger Hicks is right on the nail.

    It wasn't really a quote as I can't remember his exact words but he did refer to a 'quality plateau' above which, the quality does not matter.
  68. I've seen some great images made with a pinhole in a box with a sheet of film on the back of it.
  69. Mr Spirer, you and others have been vehemently defending the opinion that equipment does not matter. Then you add the caveat "This doesn't apply to commercial work where very specific types of results can be required." That's the whole point of the debate! The statement "Equipment doesn't matter" is too broad and needs to be qualified. If your purpose is as general as "Go out and get some great photographs", then you're right, a skilled photographer can do that with just about anything. But I recently did a wedding and I can assure you my client would not have been very happy if I'd done it with crappy lenses, grainy film and poor lighting. And as for looking at other people's photos, I did not join PN to post photos. I joined to learn something from other photographers through these forums.
  70. At the risk of being unusually terse, I think I've boiled my opinion down to: "There are no bad cameras, merely inflexible ones."
    And as for looking at other people's photos, I did not join PN to post photos. I joined to learn something from other photographers through these forums.​
    Well said. I think there is sometimes a little snobbishness from those who have drummed up the courage to put images on show. Kudos to them for doing so, but some of those of us who lurk do take photos, even if we talk equipment.
  71. Incidentally, I see Ken's added a new "should I upgrade?" article. His good advice is "don't upgrade to take better pictures". He fails to say "do upgrade (or at least, get more kit) to take different pictures."
  72. I'm going to take my 5D Mark II out tomorrow. Some of the photos that I capture will be quite good. Some will show promise. Some will be kind of wimpy, and others will be just plain goofs.
    If I had used a cheaper, older, or lower MP DSLR, I probably would have made just about number of images, but none of the images would have been as sharp as their 5D2 counterparts, nor would I have been able to print the best of them at the dimensions that the 5D2 affords me.
    What have we learned here? The 5D2 doesn't make me a better photographer - only hard work and systematic honest criticism can do that - but the better camera allows me to create higher quality output even at a fixed level of skill.
    If I were using my 4x5, the total number of attempts would be far fewer. I can only carry a limited number of film holders, and every shot takes a lot of time and effort to capture. I might have ended up with a handful of lovely chromes for a day's work.
    If I were using MF digital (after winning the lottery, of course), the quality of the output would be better than the 5D2, but I probably would have taken fewer photos overall, especially given that I would not have had the ability to hand hold shots with the assistance of IS for sharpness.
    In conclusion, you're ALL right. Even Ken Rockwell. Equipment matters in some ways and in other ways it doesn't. Now, get out there and shoot someone!
  73. Mr South...
    In your post above you said "Now, get out there and shoot someone!" May I choose Mr. Blume as my target? Oops, I mean, subject. Now, now Homeland Security, that was said tongue in cheek. You really don't want to arrest me and have to pay for all my medicines while I await trial. The public debt is high enough as it is.
    Actually, regarding Mr. Blume, before making my last comment, I had attempted to look up his other posts on Photonet. That particular Photonet feature was temporarily non-op, so I made it without the benefit of knowing the level and/or frequency of his general posting. To be honest, I would have to rate him high in both categories. I note most of his posts are of a technical rather than artistic nature. I also note they are usually helpful, on point, and well explained. Credit where credit is due.
    A. T. Burke
  74. In my other hobby, the forums are full of people who think they need to own a $10,000 Lance Armstrong-approved road racing bike from Trek in order to ride around their town for fitness. I happen to know a little bit more about bikes than I do cameras, and I can guarantee that they don't need the Lance Armstrong bike even to actually race, let alone ride around the park. Every hobby that depends on some kind of machine or instrument is the same.
  75. But the issue is, if you were entering the Tour de France, could you do so with just any old bike? I'm no expert in bike racing, but my guess is, you could try, but you'd fail miserably.
  76. That's the whole point of the debate!​
    Who said that besides you? The debate was too broad you say but most everyone dealt with that. Then the Tour and Lance and a Nikon7000 is a Lomo on steroids... . Nobody really said that yet.
  77. My question is: has the OP raised a real question in which she is seriously interested in? I don't see her engaging at all after throwing out a "what do you think" line. Just saying...
  78. Zlight - does it matter? I sometimes feel a little unappreciated if I've expended some effort in trying to answer a technical question (and others have done so) and there's no sign that the person who asked it has bothered to check back - but on this forum, I assume threads are started to kick off a discussion. I'd never assume anyone wanted to listen to me. :) Besides, I think it's valid to sit back and listen; if the original poster has nothing to add, it's commendable not to say anything. That's really something I should learn.
  79. The debate was too broad you say...​
    Actually, I didn't say that. I said the statement "Equipment doesn't matter" is too broad. I said nothing regarding the scope of the debate about that statement.
  80. In my pre-digital days I went out shooting with a 50mm prime and a Soligor 70-200 "macro" lens. On hitting the darkroom I wondered why some photos really popped and others looked flat and dull. It didn't take long to figure out that the good photos came from the prime and the bad ones came from the Soligor zoom. These were photos takes with the same lighting, the same conditions, on the same day, on the same subjects, using the same film, and I found very different results.
    When I upgraded from a film SLR to a Canon 20D, the Canon 20D came with a truly awful kit lens. I was horrified to see that my brand new very expensive camera was taking much lower quality photos than the film SLR. On buying a Tamron 28-75 f2.8 everything got better, and the 20D became my favorite for several years.
    When I was doing scientific and sample photography using an optical breadboard with camera mounts, an X-Y-Z stage for the specimens, and focusing rails made focusing with a MP-E 65 a lot easier. Could someone take those photos with a cell phone camera? No. Could we have done it with just a tripod and a less capable macro lens? They would not have been as good. I would have preferred a modern digital microscope, but we had the camera equipment and optics equipment laying around from other projects and you can buy a lot of Canon 1Ds cameras for the price of a good microscope.
    Once your equipment hits a certain level it becomes less important, but lousy equipment can wreck things pretty quickly. One last observation, people who claim that equipment doesn't matter typically have very good equipment.
  81. The proper tool for the job works for many people. I have found a camera that works well is real good. Probably the two times I failed miserable was the two times my Tripod failed to function. One time was because It fell 100 feet onto some rocks and the other time was my Bogen Ballhead frooze up and would not work. At home I took it apart and found a tiny pebble worked it's way inside and jammed it tight. Well actually I used to own a Mamiya medium format and the back fell off while shooting. That was not fun as the latch broke. The photos were still good however except 2 or 3 frames. Anyway a camera and gear that works for the duration of the project is good.
  82. Gentlepersons....
    For a question or subject which has been considered a bit ridiculous, low end, or banal, this thread now has accumulated 83 responses. Although some of the posters obviously consider the discussion beneath them, they did post. Additionally, I'm just low end enough to think open discussions are a good thing amongst free citizens (unlike my betters).
    A. T. Burke
  83. Andrew, maybe you are's nice to have open-ended questions that generate some discussion. At the same time however, a few days ago Matt Laur made these observations regarding the OP - and I happen to agree with him:
    Matt Laur: "Not that I'm a cynic or anything, but I've seen enough of such things, including posts like this that come on the heels of a relatively new (three weeks) member's asking of several generic photography questions that he or she never returns to. No follow-up on those threads, and no social graces (thanking PN's members for their generous and sometimes detailed responses). That's classic window dressing to set up an user profile with some history, the better to disguise the inevitable blog-flogging, later. Which is what this is, I suspect. If I'm wrong, it's because the coincidence, history, and pattern-matching factors are so strong. My gut says that this thread should be titled "What is your secret for getting people to visit your web site?" If not, then I'll be both surprised and contrite."
    In the end however, I guess nothing does matter :) (Am I getting tired of these generic questions posted by the OP? Yes! But is it the end of the world for me, No!)
  84. "we fall in love with our tools and the art and the science of photography becomes the less important ingredient."
    There's a good thought.
  85. If better equipment can inspire you to do better, than it's worth it. If it doesn't inspire you, and you don't need it for technical reasons, than it's just an ego trip.
  86. "It's a question of mind over matter; if you don't mind it doesn't matter"
    I thought that was from Calvin and Hobbes! Gee, I must be getting younger by the minute!
  87. "If better equipment can inspire you to do better, than it's worth it"
    New toys become old toys when the newest toy arrives. How many new toys do you need to be inspired? Or, is it just a case of having a new toy because it's a new toy...or, should I say tool.
    Sort of strange really how the old masters got by with their ancient tools. Of course we all take far superior photos now with our new super tools ....and the photos just keep getting better and better as the new toys...ooops, I mean tools arrive.
    Or, do they?
  88. Below, two photos, same sceene, one with camera phone and other with a pro camera and pro lens... equipment MATTERS A LOT... whether you are racing road bikes or pushing photography to your limits!
  89. Which is which? Pushing limits to do what? A snapshot is a snapshot.
  90. Yes, I know that messengering is hardly a competitive sport either.​
    A.T. You haven't experienced the no gears, no brakes, bike messengers here in Boston! Check out the hair raising utube stuff on that. Lomography is NOT "low quality". It is quality with a difference.
  91. Just a throwaway Alan, relax.
  92. Four legs good, two legs better! From Animal Farm - George Orwell
    I am not professional, I have Canon 5D as well as Panasonic LX3. Both are great camera BUT 5D is a more great !.
    This is at lest from high ISO - LOW NOISE point of view.
  93. After reading kenrockwell article:
    Definitely kenrockwell meant too many in his wonderful article and he didn’t went for special type of photography like Sport, Astrophotography, Underwater, Microphotography and for a Large final print. Yes the camera doesn't matter and he gave an excellent example for this case Kirsten Gallon. Beside this we are in a digital era and there are a lot of effects that we can do in post processing instead of buying a good equipment. Here you can read another GREAT article talking about the same thought.
  94. Museeb - thanks for the GREAT article. I wonder if mid-format has managed to catch up with digicams by now? The article was from 2008. The G12 or Sony NEX-5 are the new benchmarks.
  95. Ken P. Not dissing your pictures except that your demo didn't work because of screen limitations of 72DPI. I'll be interested in your comments on Musseeb's reference to digicam comparo.
  96. - " most cameras are better than most photographers " This has always been true, and now simply more so than ever.
    - I am not saying that a Mercedes and a Honda Civic are comparable, but I am saying that for some people they'll both get you where you're going
    Michael Reichmann
    Alan Zinn
    Whatever the new benchmark camera, I am still thing it doesn't matter, because the question is what we can do with this new benchmark?. Please have a look to the following snapshot photos and tell me, do you find a big difference between them?, good that you can see the Exif data for the photo captured by Canon A610 ( It cost about $350 in 2006 while Canon 5D about $3000 for the body only ).
  97. I agree with Robert and Hector. Ken Rockwell's reviews can be pretty shallow and obvious. I'm pretty sure that his business is giving positive reviews for camera companies who pay him. We all know that images are created - as Ansel Adams says - in the mind of the photographer and transferred to an image, paper by the photographer with a camera and in the darkroom or digital processing stage. Cameras do matter in capturing what the eye sees. The tripod also matters because it aids in composition and provides latitude in the capture.
  98. I am not saying that a Mercedes and a Honda Civic are comparable, but I am saying that for some people they'll both get you where you're going​
    They will get all people to where they are going (unless you can be allergic to Honda but not Mercedes).
  99. Buying more and more expensive equipment without a commensurate upgrade in your skills and knowledge and ability to "see", and relying on even greater levels of automation in the hardware and software of the gear makes you an expensive photographic equipment owner, not a photographer.
  100. Museeb,
    I don't think computer images reveal enough for critical judgement. From your gallery I see that you make excellent pictures with any camera you use.
  101. Museeb,
    As Alan Zinn said, you can't tell much difference looking at computer images. I would add to that the fact that you are comparing 21st century digital cameras. How about comparing images from a Canon 5D against those from a 19th century field camera? And a variety of subjects and situations, including movement? And no Photoshopping! It seems that some people on this thread have lost sight of the OP's original statement:
    Recently I came across an article on which says that photography is purely a from of art and that it doesn't actually matters which equipment you use. In other words, it went on convincing that your camera doesn't matter. I cannot accept this fact simply bcz I cannot capture motion or photograph shallow dof with my compact camera. I think the equipment plays a pivotal role in photography.​
    Clearly the OP is saying that he cannot make a specific type of image with the equipment he has. In this case (though not in all cases, of course, such as the two sample images you showed) equipment is important.
  102. Lonnie Raffray, Yes I am agree with your recent comment " Equipment doesn't matter, is too broad and needs to be qualified ". Indeed, I also have an impression the article given by Ken Rockwell has some extreme ideas but the good thing that he always emphasizes that one should upgrade his skill better than thinking to upgrade his cameras because the camera it self, for example, doesn't compose the photo.
    Michael Reichmann was a more realistic and I have quoted two of his lithe statements like " most cameras are better than most photographers " This has always been true, and now simply more so than ever.
    So he also took the time as a factor, and as time passes surely the gap will get less and less.
    Thank you Alan Zinn
    Thank you Lonnie Raffray
  103. It would seem to me that if your camera equipment is in any way limiting you, technically or creatively, then it clearly "matters" and you have good reason to upgrade or purchase something to solve the problem.
    By the same token, if you are not being limited by your camera equipment, then further upgrades and purchases will make no difference at all. Either way, your camera is still merely a dumb tool and has nothing to do with your choice of content, composition, lighting, timing or control of your subject. It has no idea what you are pointing it at and cares even less.
    Like it or not, there is a strange and unique fascination with the tools of photography, more than almost any other creative pursuit. When people go to see a great movie, they talk about the content as they leave and never about what camera or lenses were used. No-one wonders, as they read a great book, about the writer's choice of word processor. A chef is not interrogated about his pots and pans after he provides an amazing meal. Yet on viewing a photograph, one of the first questions asked is "what camera/lens did you use?" as if the answer is really any more relevant than in the other examples.
    To me, this shows that a lot of people's interest in photography is more geared to the equipment than to images. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this - people can buy whatever they want for whatever reasons make them happy, and technophiles and gear heads love camera equipment. Also, there is nothing wrong with pride of ownership for it's own sake. My passion is for images, but I'm happy that people are willing to buy the latest and greatest as they keep the development cycle going and the prices reasonable!
  104. Does anyone know or care what quail pen Shakespeare used, or what sort of brushes Rembrandt used

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