Welcome to the latest Photography Bluff.
It’s Christmas time and what better time to think about getting an upgrade for you camera or lenses? Especially when there are lots of special offers from the manufacturers. This is a rather funny topic and many people and I literally saying most of us (or men) love to get the latest and the best of what he could afford. I am not sexiest but to be frank, women are more sensible when it comes to buying items like camera. We men love to talk about specifications, and women tends to just say “all I need is something to take nice picture and affordable”. There’s absolutely no way that your girlfriend or wife will buy a £1000 camera let alone letting you buy one. She would rather you spend the money on her or on a holiday together or even a very posh five-star dining with a hired Ferrari. Ultimate, especially in 2014, there are more women taking photos with their iPhones than ever before! So they simply don’t need the super duper 1.2 aperture, 10x optical zoom, optically stabilised, 36-megapixel, weather sealed magnesium built camera. No, that’a no no no unless and a BIG UNLESS you are professional that you NEED your equipment for work.
I am fortunate enough (so to speak) to be a professional photographer and I do use different cameras to suit different needs. I have a few film cameras, a few medium formats, SLRs, mirrorless and Leica. Yes, it sounds like a lot to many but I am using them as tool for work. Each, when bundles with specific lenses, can create very unique pictures. I love my Leica and I know that many may disagree that it’s not really a professional camera but to be frank, what separate a non-pro and a pro camera? Nothing. If you ask any sensible and genuine photographer, he or she will tell you that you will only need a camera that you can control. For example, shutter speed, aperture, focus and iso.
That also means that you can get the cheapest DSLR for £250 and still achieve a top quality picture? Yes, absolutely. And yes, there’s some differences in terms of ultimate image quality such as dynamic range and sharpness (though that’s only part of the story and you will need a sharp lens too!). Starting to get confused? Well, wait, these cheapo cameras can produce top class pictures??? Yes, and I say it again. But why on earth did I or many fellow GAS photographers (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) spend all our hard earn money on big or expensive camera? Well, I can answer a few but only from a professional point of view.
To a professional, we do need the ruggedness from a good built body. Why? We bashed our cameras around all day to get the shots. Not that we don’t look after our kits but in the real world, it’s other people surround you, and that includes the environment, that don’t look after our equipment. I have guests at weddings knocking down my tripods and dropped my camera onto the ground. I broke lights before and also lost a flash unit. We need something that we can continue to do our job even after all these ‘bashing’. A plastic body low end camera simply will not survive such abuse and may die after a few weddings.
Also, there are features on those pro models that will enhance and speed up our work. Such as auto focus and metering. The combination of these top features allow us to increase our ‘hit rate’ at any given time and opportunity. There’re reasons that professional cameras are so much more expensive than entry-level cameras. The auto focus system is far superior with higher sensitivity. Metering matrix is much more sophisticated and accurate in most circumstances. Pro cameras usually have a higher frame rate and buffer that will allow us to do a few continuous frames when needed. Better tracking… … well you get the idea. Yes, all these ‘features’ may exist in lower end models but they are usually 1-2 generations behind the top-of-the-range-and-up-to-date pro model today.
Having said that, however, I am also a Leica user and it doesn’t have many of the aforementioned advancements. Why pay an extortionate amount of money for one? Well, part of it is passion. Anyone loves photography, especially reportage and street photography, will adore Leica. Enough said. But on the other hand, it’s the unique images that the Leica creates. It’s very very different to those of DSLRs. Perhaps it’s the lens but the overall combinations truly separates the big ‘L’ from the rest of the camera makers. To me, the end result dedicate from the camera dictates my purchase. As Leica creates such beautiful and unique pictures, and when couples with the unique rangefinder experience, I simply would pay any money for one. Yes, it lacks auto focus, fast frame rate or even the occasional hiccups from its softwares, it’s worth the price just to get ‘that picture’.
I use all DSLRs, Mirrorless and Leica for my wedding work.
But the end question to most non-professionals out there, do you really need that expensive camera? Apart from satisfying your GAS and to show off your wealth, I can say that you DON’T need them. You may need good lenses more than the body. If you don’t trust me, just look around some of the really cool photographers out there, most use very humble cameras. Some young photographers on Flickr use some of the lower end models that are 5-6 years old! Their pictures are still amazing and if it wasn’t the displayed EXIF data, you may think they are using some high end professional cameras. Just another extreme example that a couple of years ago, I was at the Taylor Weiss Portrait exhibition in London, there was a nominated photo that was taken from an iPhone!!! At the time, it was the iPhone 4s.
Just remember, photographer makes the photos, not the cameras. They are simply tools for you to accomplish what you want to create. £10k camera will not make you an instance success nor a £10 camera will make you a loser. Get what you NEED for what you want to create, photographically. If you are just a snapper, then yes, agree with your girlfriend or wife and treat her to a nice restaurant instead of buying an expensive camera body! You simply don’t need one and she will love you more 🙂