Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cameras don't matter! No, wait, they do!

I can't decide who is more annoying this week: equipment whores (ie: photographers who believe that only the most expensive camera equipment is worth buying), or the "cameras don't matter" contrarians.  The former category can best be summed up by the growing chorus of internet chatterers, on blogs and in message boards, who have decided that everyone should switch to "full frame" DSLRs.  Nevermind that most people don't even know what the difference is.  The later, by the likes of Ken Rockwell and others, who has apparently now decided that a toy camera or an iphone is all anyone needs.  Well, I don't agree with either camp.

The truth is, your camera either matters or doesn't matter, depending on what you intend to do with it.  For example, if you're a) shooting everything in daylight, b) you don't particularly care about depth of field, and c) you don't plan on printing anything larger than 8x10, then it probably doesn't matter whether you have a cheap point and shoot or a DSLR.  Also, if you prefer the look of a toy camera or an iphone, then either the camera doesn't matter, or it does, because you will actually need that particular camera to get that particular look.  Photos from a Holga do not look the same as photos from an iphone, which do not look the same as photos from a Nikon D90.

For me, it matters that I have a camera that shoots effectively at ISO800, because I take a lot of photos handheld in dim lighting, and I want my photos to have as little noise as possible.  For that same reason, it also matters that I use lenses that either have a good VR system, or fast apertures (or both).  So I need a good DSLR and at least semi-professional lenses.  What doesn't matter to me is whether the camera is "full frame," half frame, or records photos in the fourth dimension: so long as it gets the job done otherwise.  The needs of your hobby, art, or profession may differ from mine.

The problem is that both sides take their arguments too far.  A full frame camera is not some panacea that will make your photography better.  No amount of gear can make up for bad technique or a poor composition.  At the same time, anyone who argues that the camera doesn't matter AT ALL has clearly never tried to do sports photography, or astral photography, or anything else remotely specialized with an iphone.  To argue that the camera doesn't matter at all is just silly talk.  It does.

Note: this blog post was partially inspired by my friend egophony.  Also, insomnia and a large cup of green tea.


Meeting Neil is Easy said...

Egophony? That guy's wigidy wigidy wack...!

Andy said...

In my head I like to call him "lego my egophony".

Meeting Neil is Easy said...

I simply like to call him "Bob".